Lea Salonga returning to Broadway and London’s West End

Award-winning singer, actress and theater legend Lea Salonga is making a New York’s Broadway and London’s West End comeback.

Lea, whose full name is Maria Lea Carmen Imutan Salonga, 52, made the announcement herself after she disclosed she is also returning to London’s West End.

The Tony and Olivier winner said on her official website that she will star in the musical “Here Lies Love” based on the rise and fall of the controversial former First Lady of the Philippines and mother of the current Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Mrs. Imelda Marcos. She said she will be joining the show also as a co-producer.

Lea, who celebrated her 52nd birthday on February 22, said in her announcement she will portray Aurora Aquino, the mother of the late senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., and in the musical, she will perform the song “Just Ask The Flowers” following the death of Ninoy. The assassination of Ninoy ignited the “People Power Revolution” in February 1986 that ousted Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos from power.

The Filipino actress will appear in the Broadway show for five weeks from July 17 to August 13, 2023 before passing on her role to other Filipino guest stars which the show’s producers have praised for an “abundance of talent.” July 20 will be the show’s official opening night.

Lea would be returning to London’s West End for the restaging of “Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends.”

Lea first debuted on Broadway in 1991 with her iconic role of Kim in “Miss Saigon,” having first performed on West End. “Miss Saigon” won for Lea a Tony Award at 20 years old. She was last seen on Broadway for “Allegiance” from 2015 to 2016 and the 2017 revival of “Once on this Island.”

This will be the first time Lea is portraying a Filipino character and co-producing on Broadway.

She said “Here Lies Love” will run on the very same stage — the Broadway Theatre — where “Miss Saigon” first ran making it another significant return for her.

“I’m thrilled to be part of this show, as well as part of a company comprised of an abundance of Filipino talent, a first in Broadway history. We’re showing the world what we’re capable of,” Salonga said in a statement.

The actress also recounted first seeing “Here Lies Love” in 2014 at the National Theatre in London, and wanted to become a part of it should it arrive on Broadway.

“Salonga has singularly secured a place for Filipinos on the Broadway stage,” said the show’s costume designer Clint Ramos who is also co-producing. “She continues to be a beacon of light and source of pride for the Philippines.”

The producers said “Here Lies Love” is an immersive musical — concept, music and lyrics by David Byrne and music by Fatboy Slim — which will turn the Broadway Theatre into a dance club as it details the “Imeldific” life of the former First Lady.

Byrne and Fatboy Slim initially began the project as a concept album before premiering off Broadway starring Ruthie Ann Miles as Imelda, Conrad Ricamora as Ninoy, and Jose Llana as Ferdinand Marcos, the late dictator and husband of Imelda.

Filipino-Americans Ricamora and Llana were previously announced to reprise their roles for the Broadway run as an international search for the remaining ensemble is ongoing; performances begin on June 17 before the official opening night on July 20.

Llana will portray the role of the late Marcos Sr, while Oliver will play the character of Ninoy.

Both Llana and Ricamora had previously portrayed the same characters in the same musical.  (Claire Morales True/cmtpr1962@yahoo.com.ph)

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