With the premiere of the newest season of The Voice Kids, judge Lea Salonga has high hopes this year's participants will surpass the potential of last year's top discoveries. “We have some really, really exceptional mind-blowing talent this season and when I say I think we found them, I think they have the potential certainly to be as good as let's say Darren Espanto or Lyca Gairanod or Darlene Vibares or JK Labajo. JK is going through puberty in a very public way so I'm waiting for his voice to settle and then I want to hear that kid sing again. Darren's voice hasn't changed yet because I asked him, 'Okay you’re 14, has anything happened yet?' Sabi niya, 'Wala naman po,' (laughs). I think they will be extremely competitive beside gifted. With every season naman of The Voice, grown-ups or kids, we find exceptional singers. Now the next hope is the audience thinks as highly of them as we do,” she said during The Voice Kids Season 2 presscon held last June 3 inside ABS-CBN.
During her intimate interview with the press, Lea also revealed what she and the other judges were looking for in potential young finalists this year. “They have to be gifted. And everything plays into it and I look at so many of these big, big stars and everything about who they are plays into it. It's not just their talent. Life story really does play into it, it does. Because when you find something in that person's story that you can relate to, parang there's this rags-to-riches, I-started-from-nothing-and-then-I-became-something, parang it gives you inspiration na this person was able to make better choices or do something with their lives which means that it's possible also for me. That's one thing that will make people latch on. I'm hoping that it's not just yung kuwento ng isang tao ang magla-latch on sa kanila. Dapat yung talent nila. This is The Voice and ultimately that's the first thing we have to judge which is their voice,” she admitted.
After the three-month run of the singing talent search, Lea said she will head straight to New York to work on a musical based on the experience of former Star Trek series actor George Takei. “As in the day after grand finals (of The Voice Kids) I leave for New York and I start rehearsals. Our finals are August 30, on August 31 I'm on a plane out. The title of the show is Allegiance and we had a production of it at the Old Globe in San Diego,” she shared. Lea also talked with admiration about the popular Hollywood actor who is also part of the cast. “He's incredibly funny, but there was one experience in his life that was incredibly tragic in that he became one of the hundreds of thousands of Japanese-Americans who were in internment camps up and down the West Coast just because he was of Japanese descent. In December 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and then that began this string of prejudice, bigotry, and fear against the Japanese-American community only because they were Japanese-American. It's a part of history that isn't told very often so it's also a part of history that has the potential to be repeated. Maybe not against the Japanese-Americans but maybe against the Muslim-American community whether they are from Lebanon or from Pakistan. So there is great cultural and historical relevance in staging of this show because of what is happening still in America today. There is so much intolerance and bigotry still. I hope this show opens the eyes of audiences that it's still happening,” she explained.
In Allegiance, Lea will play a Japanese-American displaced during the time of war. “I get to play one of the 120,000 that gets carted off to a train and thrown into a camp. The story itself it doesn't want to be depressing but because the community itself held its head high despite the number of years behind barbed wire fences and enduring bigotry and prejudice and massive land-grabbing and property loss. The loss of basically everything in their lives, it was still a community. It's really an inspiring story, that George Takei came out of it as a LGBT activist and one of the loudest especially on social media with millions of followers, as an actor, an author, it's inspiring So he's a very inspiring presence to be around and knowing that it's his life that inspired the show, it's like you are with living history, it’s an amazing experience that I'm looking forward to being a part of,” she added.
Another thing Lea recalled being really happy about was when Rachelle Ann Go shared with her the good news of getting the role of Fantine in the longest running West End production Les Miserables. “I was screaming. I was screaming for about ten minutes because I was so extremely happy for her. She was also screaming on the phone. She's happy. She's doing what she loves to do and I'm hoping for the best for her. That on her opening night she's just glorious. But she always is anyway. She'll be fine. I'm just incredibly happy for her. I offered her a couple of pieces of advice which is basically just to read the book and that's it and the rest of it will come. I've known for a while. I've known about it since the first week of March,” she admitted.