Go Away With … Lea Salonga

JRI_0732_ photo credit Raymund Isaac x640

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
Novemeber 24, 2015

Broadway star Lea Salonga’s latest role is in “Allegiance.” Starring opposite George Takei, she portrays an American woman of Japanese descent whose family is locked away in an internment camp during World War II. Based out of Manila, Salonga has relocated to New York for the production’s run.

Just 17 when she auditioned for “Miss Saigon” — a role that would win her a Tony Award — Salonga has gone on to star in musicals such as “Les Miserables.” She was also the singing voice for Jasmine and Mulan in the Disney animated films, “Aladdin” and “Mulan,” respectively.

Fans may read more about her on her website, or follow her on Twitter.

Q. Where have you traveled to that you never expected to visit?

A. I recently made a trip around Eastern Europe. I toured with Il Divo last year and we went to so many interesting places where there had been plenty of war and strife. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The places ranged from breathtaking to cosmopolitan to modern to quaint. It’s a beautiful part of the world. I had lived in London and had traveled around Germany, but I had never been to Serbia or Croatia and hadn’t really thought about going there prior to the tour. I highly recommend it.

Q. What do you remember the most about the trip?

A. My husband is a morning person and he walked around Zagreb (Croatia) while I was sleeping. When he got back to the hotel, he told me, “I have to take you somewhere.” We walked a good 20 minutes from our hotel and he was leading me the whole way. When we were about to make a turn, he said, “Just wait…” And then there it was, the Zagreb Cathedral. It was breathtaking and majestic and — oh, my gosh — I don’t know how many pictures I took of the front of this church. I also remember the food, the delicious food. We ate at this little bistro almost every day where the food was gourmet quality, but the prices were so cheap. We ate our way through Eastern Europe and loved it.

Q. Are you a tour bus or a walking around kind of tourist?

A. Walking, if possible, especially in Europe. There’s so much to see and you can just stop and spend time exploring, which is difficult to do if you’re on a bus. The places are so picturesque that you want to walk and rubberneck and look up at the spires. I like walking on cobblestones if we happen to find any and just soak it all in. It’s a lot of fun.

Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?

A. It was to Honolulu when I was about 10, and I loved it. It was so much fun, even though it was for work. I was performing at a travel agency conference. As a reward for a job well done, they then sent me to Disneyland on the same trip.

Q. You’re based predominantly in Manila. Are you super-famous there?

A. (Laughs). I’m easily more recognized in the Philippines than I am anywhere else in the world. It kind of limits where I can go and what I can do, but I try not to let it hamper my life. I’ll pick my daughter up from school; I’ll go to the mall. I go grocery shopping and check out new restaurants with my husband. It’s really nice.

Q. What’s a quick getaway for you?

A. The Philippines is so close to Singapore, which I love. I have godparents who live there and we get to stay with them. We’ll go shopping, have nights out and oh, the food! Even the street food is so good. The best gin and tonic I ever had was in Singapore.

Q. What are some of your other favorite cities?

A. Vienna. London. Paris.

Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?

A. There are so many places, but the things at the top of my list are Machu Picchu. I have always dreamed about visiting. I’d like to see Mayan temples and ancient ruins while I’m still healthy enough to walk around.

Q. In which countries have you enjoyed the best meals?

A. Traveling in Japan is amazing for food. Just about anywhere in Europe. You can’t go wrong. And in the U.S., New York City is a food heaven. If you made me pick just one area, I would say Eastern Europe again. It was a feast for the eyes and a feast for the mouth.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?

A. Always the iPhone. I love being able to look at a map on my phone and find my way around without having to stop to ask people.

Q. What’s your next trip?

A. I’m attending a wedding in Miami. I’m taking some time off from “Allegiance” to attend. This wedding is a long time coming and I’m not missing it!

Q. What is your best and worst vacation memory?

A. I haven’t really had a worst. Our luggage was lost once, but even then it wasn’t so bad. The people I was with made light of the situation and we got it back with everything in it, which was nice. The best? We enjoy a lot of vacations and like to go everywhere. We always say that the best trip always seems to be the trip we’re on.

© 2015 JAE-HA KIM

Comments (2)

  1. R.J.D.S. says:


    Jae-Ha, I doubt that you remember me from way back when, since we’ve never met in person but I think I did the email thing with you at that time…anyhow, glad you got to interview my friend Lea for your website here. Didn’t realize it’s been sitting out here for a few weeks now. But glad I get to rediscover you and also read up again on my friend. Oh, her trip to Miami was a great one for her and her friend, just fyi.

    Take care over there.

    • Jae-Ha Kim says:

      Hi, nice to hear from you again. The column is archived on my website, but it’s actually for the newspaper syndicate that I write for (Chicago Tribune etc.). Though it ran on their online formats earlier, it just ran in the papers this past weekend. Have a great week!

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