The winds were strong in Edmonton the evening of April 10 so as soon as I got out of the vehicle and onto the gravelly parking lot of River Cree Resort and Casino, it almost felt like I was being purposefully shoved from there and through the doors of the casino itself. We joined the crowd and filed into The Venue, and took our seats. The excitement inside the building was palpable, and it was good to see everyone enjoying themselves. And for good reason! Lea Salonga’s Dream Again concert tour had blown into Edmonton. Now, before I dive into all the positives, I’d like to get a small bit of constructive criticism out of the way. I believe that it would have been a better viewing experience for the audience, especially those in the back rows, if The Venue had theatre seating—much like the other venues that have hosted Lea’s concerts so far during this tour. And that’s it. All good things from here on out. Yes, the show started about twenty minutes late, but once Lea got onto the stage, she was welcomed by thunderous applause. She’s well worth the wait. “So this is what a sold out concert at The Venue looks like,” she remarked as she took it all in.
Lea’s set list for this show was varied, and was a good mix with pieces from theatre such as “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret and “For Forever” from Dear Evan Hansen, to more current songs like Shawn Mendes’ “Stitches” and Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph”. And I do have to put in a special mention of her version of Britney’s “Toxic”. It was perfection. She also paid tribute to the late, great Stephen Sondheim, and only Lea can make Sweeney Todd’s “Not While I’m Around” sound not at all murder-y. If you know, you know. At one point, she asked frontline healthcare workers to turn the lights of their cellphones on and raise them up to be recognized. The room practically glowed, with a sizeable number of the audience raising their phones. After thanking them for all their hard work during this pandemic, she proceeded to sing “Bring Him Home”, from Les Misérables.
Despite proclaiming herself a diva, Lea is a consummate professional. She also has the innate ability to make a roomful of concert-goers feel like they’re just hanging out at a friend’s house. “You’re at my concert,” she reassured the crowd, who had let out a collective groan of disappointment once told we had hit the halfway mark. “I’ll take care of you.” Of course, it wouldn’t be a Lea concert without her singing the songs she’s known for. “I’d Give My Life for You” from Miss Saigon, “A Whole New World” from Aladdin, “Reflection” from Mulan, and ”On My Own” and “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miz, were bundled up into a neat little medley to the delight of the crowd.
We weren’t just treated to her vocals. A friend of mine also attended the concert and she had nothing but positive things to say. “Her voice is so clear and beautiful, and her warm smile is awesome,” she said. And that’s exactly it! With a voice like hers, we can always rely on Lea to put on a great show, but it was also fun because of her warm and playful personality. Lea exudes such a welcoming warmth. This was evident in her jovial “Salamat po” in response to every single “I love you, Lea” shouted from the crowd, to “Sige nga, wala pang umuuwi…” [Fine, since no one has gone home yet…], said in mock exasperation as she stepped back onto the stage for her second encore performance, where she sang “How Far I’ll Go”, popularized by Disney’s animated feature, Moana. Lea received two standing ovations that evening and she absolutely deserved each one. If the audience had the power to keep her coming back by remaining on its feet, clapping and hollering, we would have been there all night. As it was, Lea reminded us that all good things must come to an end, with a cheeky parting remark of “I still need to get to bed.”
I’m sure everyone came there expecting to be blown away by her performance and boy, did she deliver. This was my first time seeing her live and I, being such a huge fan of hers since childhood, may or may not have teared up when she first stepped onto the stage. Her stage presence is simply stunning and she has complete mastery of her vocal range. All in all, it was a flawless performance. The little girl in me was absolutely giddy the entire time, and I do look forward to the chance of seeing her perform once again.