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Lea Salonga Talks Ragtime 'Homework' and Reuniting with Les Miz Co-Star Norm Lewis

Lea Salonga  Talks Ragtime 'Homework' and Reuniting with Les Miz Co-Star Norm Lewis
Lea Salonga
‘I’d better nail those [songs] or I’ll never get hired again.’

Tony winner Lea Salonga is getting ready to lead the cast of the Lincoln Center concert of Ragtime, which will bow on February 18 and feature a cast of Broadway showstoppers like Norm Lewis, Tyne DalyPatina Miller, Kerry Butler, Matt Cavenaugh and more. In prepping for the concert, the former Miss Saigon star gave the scoop on the starry lineup for the anticipated event.

“When I looked at the cast list I just thought, this is nuts,” said Salonga of the 65-person ensemble of familiar faces that will perform alongside Salonga. “My worlds are merging and I love it!”

Salonga joked that she is hard at work on her character Mother’s three big songs. “‘Goodbye My Love,’ ‘Back to Before’ and ‘What Kind of Woman’ are the three [numbers] that really stand out to me as, ‘I’d better nail those or I’ll never get hired again,’” she said with a laugh. “I really studied ‘Back to Before,’ so that when I went into the room to sing it for our conductor and musical director, it felt like it was already in my body. Thank goodness I can sight read a little bit!”

Perhaps most exciting for Salonga is the chance to reunite with her erstwhile Les Miserables co-star Norm Lewis, whom she starred opposite in the 2006 revival and most recently performed alongside at the show's 25th anniversary concert in London, in which she reprised her performance as Fantine.

“We were both just happy people in the hallway,” she says of their concert reunion. “Who would have thought in a million years that the first show we would ever work on together was Les Miz? Where in this universe did we think that would happen? He’s an African-American actor, I’m an Asian actor—you wouldn’t think that Les Miz would be on that radar, and then here comes Cameron [Mackintosh] reviving the show and casting it multiculturally. It was just amazing.”

For now, though, Salonga is keeping her focus on Ragtime rehearsals, which includes studying the extensive Lynn Ahrens-Stephen Flaherty score. How much rehearsal time will she need? “Let’s just say I have a lot of homework," joked the diva.

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