Tony winner Lea Salonga, who returns to the New York stage this fall in the first Broadway revival of Once on This Island, shares a bit of theatrical history with the Tony-nominated musical and its Tony-winning writing team.
Salonga was just 20 years old when she made her Broadway debut as the star of the musical blockbuster Miss Saigon, which arrived in New York in March 1991 after an acclaimed London premiere. Salonga’s powerhouse performance as Kim earned her the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical that season; carving out a place in Broadway history as the first female actor of Asian descent to win the coveted award.
But Salonga wasn’t the only one to have a life-changing year.
The 1990–1991 season also marked the Broadway debut of an up-and-coming musical theatre writing team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, whose musical Once on This Island transferred to Broadway in October 1990 after an Off-Broadway premiere at Playwrights Horizons earlier that year. The musical received eight 1991 Tony nominations, including Best Book (Ahrens), Best Original Score (Ahrens and Flaherty), and Best Musical.
Nearly 30 seasons later, Salonga and Once on This Island are are back on Broadway together, with performances set to begin November 9 at Circle in the Square. Salonga, who plays Erzulie (the goddess of love) in Once on This Island, tells Playbill about some other iconic musical theatre roles she’d like to play.
“I think the older I’m getting, the more I’m understanding what Sondheim is about,” she says. “When I was in my 20s I had no idea. I couldn’t really understand the wisdom and the intelligence behind a lot of the lyric, but the older I’m getting and the more you’re living life, you’re like, ‘Oh, there you go.’ So, I think I’d like to do more Sondheim as I get older.”
Watch the video above to find out which Sondheim roles are on Salonga’s list.
The new production of Once on This Island is directed by Tony nominee Michael Arden and choreographed by Camille A. Brown. Orchestrator Michael Starobin and vocal arranger AnnMarie Milazzo have created new arrangements with non-traditional instruments and found objects for this new take on the story. It officially opens December 3.