Lea Salonga on ‘Les Misérables’

Pia Ranada

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Rappler interviews the Filipino pride who has played two roles in the musical

BOTH EPONINE AND FANTINE. Lea Salonga's voice landed her two roles in different 'Les Misérables' productions. Photo from the Lea Salonga Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – After a long wait, Tom Hooper’s “Les Misérables” is finally screening in Philippine theaters, and fans of the musical have wasted no time catching it in the cinemas.

For us Filipinos, when we think “Les Misérables,” another name comes to mind, a symbol of #PinoyPride who has been on the  “Les Misérables” stage not just once, but twice, playing two different roles — Tony-winning Miss Lea Salonga.

Lea brought pride to the country when she was cast as Kim in the musical “Miss Saigon” in 1989.

She played lovestruck street waif Eponine in the 10th anniversary concert production of “Les Misérables” at the Royal Albert Hall in 1995. In 2007, she joined the “Les Misérables” Broadway production again, this time as Fantine, the destitute mother who sells her body for her child’s survival.

Lea is the first Asian to have played these two roles in Broadway productions of the musical.

The singer happily looks back at her “Les Mis” memories with Rappler and shares her thoughts on Tom Hooper’s cinematic adaptation of the musical that has become part of her life.

Watch Lea sing ‘On My Own’ as Eponine here:

Rappler: Have you seen the “Les Misérables” musical film by Tom Hooper?

Lea Salonga: Yes, my husband and I went to see it the day after its release in the US. We attended a relatively quiet late night screening at a movie theater close to where we were staying.

I anticipated crying a bucket-load of tears and, sure enough, I was right. I felt very proud sitting there hearing this music that I had heard hundreds of times before and was a part of for many performances. 

Rappler: Being a part of so many “Les Misérables” theatrical productions, what do you think are the main differences between the theater versions and the new film adaptation? 

Lea Salonga: A film version will always be its own unique creation, as it should be. All bets are off as to how songs should be sequenced (provided of course that it all makes sense) and used. 

Rappler: Who are your favorite “Les Mis” characters?

Lea Salonga: Fantine, Valjean, Eponine, and Enjolras. Javert is a character I also latch on to too, depending on who plays him. 

Rappler: What are your thoughts on the casting of the characters? Who do you think were perfectly cast and who weren’t?

Lea Salonga: I was generally happy, particularly with the casting of Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Eddie Redmayne. Yes, there were those that left me wanting, but I’ll leave it at that. 

Rappler: What do you think of Anne Hathaway’s rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” that serves as the theme song for the trailer?

Lea Salonga: Oh, it was perfect. Perfection. Its placement in the film was right, her rendition and delivery were spot on. I couldn’t stop crying big tears. 

Watch Lea sing ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ as Fantine here:

Rappler: What do you think of the director’s decision to have the actors sing live instead of pre-recording their singing?

Lea Salonga: I like it. That way the actor’s acting decisions are made when they’re supposed to be made, not in a studio months in advance, but on set, in situ. Redubs can always be done later if needed. 

Rappler: Whose performance in the movie did you look forward to and why?

Lea Salonga: I looked forward to Hugh Jackman‘s most of all. Because of his musical theatre background, my expectations were set very high. I tend to be kinder to those [who] don’t share the same. 

Rappler: Which is your favorite “Les Mis” song and why?

Lea Salonga: Everything. I don’t think I have a particular favorite. 

Rappler: What for you is the biggest lesson “Les Misérables” can teach people?

Lea Salonga: To love another human being in the way that God loves us is the most amazing kind of love that moves mountains and changes people. 

Rappler: Can you share with us some of your fondest memories of the time when you were part of the “Les Mis production” (when you played Eponine)?

Lea Salonga: For me, having performed in the two anniversary concerts was the most amazing experience ever. Sitting and working amongst some of the most amazing talent assembled felt like a dream, and I wasn’t entirely sure I belonged in this group. But it was amazing celebrating the show with many thousands of people [who] loved it as much as I did, or even more so. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.