In the field of musical theatre, Lea Salonga has been honored with the Olivier, Tony®, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Theatre World awards. In addition, she holds the distinction of having played the vocal roles of two Disney leading ladies—the spectacular singing voices of Princess Jasmine and Mulan.
Born on February 22, 1971, in the Philippines, Lea made her professional debut at age 7 in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I with Repertory Philippines. She then starred in Annie and later appeared in an array of productions, including Fiddler on the Roof, The Sound of Music, The Goodbye Girl, and The Fantasticks.
She began her recording career at age 10 with her first album, Small Voice, which went gold. Her second album, Lea, was released in 1988. In addition to performing on stage and in recordings, Lea hosted her own musical television show, Love, Lea, acted in films, and in Manila opened for international acts such as Menudo and Stevie Wonder.
Lea’s breakthrough came on the West End stage in London, England, when she was selected to play Kim in the musical Miss Saigon in 1989. For her performance, she won the Olivier Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical.
Miss Saigon moved to Broadway in 1991, where Lea garnered the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and the Theatre World Awards—the first performer to win so many international awards for a single role.
At that time, she was invited to Disney to sing Princess Jasmine’s soaring love song for the 1992 animated feature Aladdin. “‘A Whole New World’ is a great song,” Lea once said, “and it’s a dream come true to be a part of a Disney animated film.” She reprised the song, along with the singing voice of Aladdin, Brad Kane, on that year’s Academy Awards broadcast. The song, written by fellow Disney Legends Alan Menken and Tim Rice, went on to win both the Golden Globe® and the Oscar® for Best Song.
Lea returned to Disney just a few years later, this time to sing the bittersweet “Reflection” for the character of Fa Mulan for another Disney animated feature, Mulan. The song, composed by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel, received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song. Lea sang again as Mulan in the sequel Mulan II.
Since then, Lea has been in perpetual motion, enjoying a regular role on the daytime drama As The World Turns, making a triumphant return to Broadway in the 2002 reinterpretation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song, and performing in concerts, recordings, television shows, and tours all over the world—many of which feature beloved Disney songs. In 2012, Lea joined the Candlelight Processional at Epcot as narrator.
“I’ve been listening to Disney music my whole life,” Lea once said. “The challenge in doing these songs is to capture all of their feelings and emotions in just a few minutes. You’ve got to remember that moment will last forever and ever on film, and you have to really do your best in that one shot. The whole Disney experience has been great fun.”