Lea Salonga Shines in Sweeney Todd

Born to and raised by parents who worshiped Tony laureate Lea Salonga, I obviously had high expectations of the Manila staging of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Topbilled by Salonga (as Mrs. Lovett) alongside Jett Pangan (former lead vocalist of rock band The Dawn as the eponymous character), the musical was long awaited.

It did not disappoint.

Especially Salonga’s performance. In several ways, I love her interpretation of Mrs. Lovett more than Helena Bonham-Carter’s. Compared to the latter’s, hers is a louder, more comical, lovesick woman. It was my first time to watch Salonga perform live, and the experience shattered my previous image of her as the almost-always wholesome artist. The lady can do comedy — the dark kind, even the one laden with innuendos.

The most memorable part for me — more than The Worst Pies in London — is her rendition of By the Sea. Hilarious. Letting out a seagull’s GAAWK and slithering on Sweeney Todd’s lap (seducing him in vain), she proves to be a more versatile artist than you’ve probably known her.

Sweeney Todd is staged at Solaire until October 27.