WATCH: Lea Salonga defends Disney over controversial 'Aladdin' casting
Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo ( - October 16, 2018 - 4:14pm

MANILA, Philippines — Lea Salonga, who famously sang Princess Jasmine’s part in the hit soundtrack “A Whole New World” featured in Disney’s animated movie “Aladdin,” recently shared her reaction to news reports and social media comments that the actors in Disney’s upcoming “Aladdin” live action movie have been “miscast.”

The 2019 live action movie has been criticized on social media for its actors who are allegedly mostly black or not of Indian or Middle Eastern descent.

During a recent press conference for Lea’s 40th anniversary concert, the award-winning international star said: “I don’t think it’s all black. I saw a picture of the young man who’s gonna play Aladdin… but he’s of Middle Eastern descent. And given that Aladdin is set in a fictional Middle Eastern country, for me, it will be cast right if you find people who are ideally of the same ethnic background that the characters actually are and for Aladdin to be Middle Eastern because it’s set in that part of the world.”

Lea said Middle East is close to Africa, anyway, so there might not be a problem.

“I think it looks black to us but it’s not quite. The countries are pretty close enough anyway. For me, as long as it’s ethnically right, and regardless of the actual hue of the skin, that won’t be an issue for me. And if they look good, and they look charming, if we just fall in love.”

She specifically likes Naomi Scott, the actress who will play Princess Jasmine.

“The girl who played Princess Jasmine is so gorgeous, Naomi Scott. She’s so beautiful! Really, really beautiful!”

Having recently conquered Broadway with her critically acclaimed performance as Erzulie, the Goddess of Love, in the new production of “Once on This Island,” Lea will once again fill PICC’s Plenary Hall with a magical repertoire of songs in her upcoming “Lea Salonga – The 40th Anniversary Concert” on October 19 and 20.

This world-class celebration will highlight Salonga’s 40-year career as a global icon of the stage and an entertainer from the time her impeccable talent was discovered, settting foot onstage as Princess Ying Yaowalak in “The King and I;” as the adorable red-head “Annie;” as Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady;” as delightful host and entertainer in her own TV show, “Love Lea;” and pretty much everything wonderful in between.

Expect a glimpse of the significant breakout role that marked her place on the world map as Kim in “Miss Saigon,” both in the West End and on Broadway, the role that made her the first and only Filipina to earn a theater Gland Slam among theater royalties with the Laurence Olivier Award in London and then the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Theater World Awards on Broadway. The concert will also feature nostalgic hits, be taken down memory lane, and at the same time, celebrate new beginnings.

“It’s a milestone anniversary,” Lea enthused. “Not very many people get to celebrate 40 years in this business and be able to fully perform at the level that I’m currently performing.”

The concert is directed by Bobby Garcia, with musical direction by Gerard Salonga, and featuring the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra.

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