Just days before she performs two concerts at the Venetian Room at the Fairmont, Lea Salonga was in Sao Paolo, joining Connie Chung, Vivica Fox and a panel of international celebrities gathered by Donald Trump to judge the 60th annual Miss Universe Pageant.
It’s just another bit of globetrotting for the Tony Award-winning star who balances career commitments like her recent appearance in The City at an AIDS benefit concert in August with ongoing performances and recording dates in her native Philippines.
“I’m really thankful to my mom for never letting the thought of being ‘too big’ to go home get into my head,” she says. “You have the choice to stay away and remain in, for instance, New York City and just keep working and working. My mom, who manages my career in the Philippines, always found importance in maintaining a career at home because it is home, and it has been good to me. My training and experience prior to ‘Miss Saigon’ was all in the Philippines, and she never wanted me to appear ungrateful for that.”
Maternal influences have kept Salonga balanced on both sides of the career questions. A stage actress, television personality and recording artist who began working at age 10, she recalls parental advice to also look beyond show business for fulfillment.
Settled on a pre-med college trajectory, it was her mother who then urged her to consider the “Miss Saigon” auditions. “I was like, ‘What about school? I’ve already made plans!’” Salonga recalls. “To which she replied: ‘Well, you haven’t got it yet!’”
Medicine’s loss was London and Broadway’s gain as Salonga swept the season’s awards on both sides of the pond for Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s Vietnam war-based retelling of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.”
She’s been part of the Boublil and Schönberg family ever since, returning to various incarnations of “Miss Saigon” and “Les Misérables” over the years. She also became a Disney princess, singing in movies — as Mulan and Princess Jasmine in “Aladdin.”
The latter status has boosted her stock in her most important role, as mom to a 5-year-old daughter. Salonga describes how, at a recent Disney promotional event, the youngster wanted an autograph from Tiana, from “The Princess and the Frog,” for her souvenir book.
Salonga says, “So I put the ‘mommy’ face on and took her over to meet Anika Noni Rose, who sang the character, and ask for the autograph. We got all the other princesses to sign and then she turned to me and said, ‘Mommy, I want you to sign my book too!’ I felt like I mattered!” she adds with a smile.
IF YOU GO
Where: Venetian Room, Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $50 to $60
Contact: (415) 392-4400, www.cityboxoffice.com