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Lifestyle // Old Friends
Nicole Kato

Lea Woods Almanza

Photo from Lea Woods Almanza

Photo from Lea Woods Almanza

It seems like a lifetime ago that Lea Woods Almanza (formerly Lea Woods Friedman) was on the cover of MidWeek on Jan. 28, 2004. Since then, she has experienced exciting changes in her life that have taken her all over the world and back home again to raise her children, Jacob (4) and Maria (2).

Her opera career (as a soprano) took her to cities in Asia and around the continental U.S.

“It was an exciting life,” admitted Almanza, “but quite the gypsy lifestyle, which was not what I had in mind for raising a family.”

After several years in the performance industry, based first in Italy and then Manhattan, N.Y., she decided to “come back home for a break.”

She wanted to reconnect with the way music brought joy to her soul and to reignite the things that inspired her during her youth. “I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else at this point in my life,” she adds.

There’s no doubt that she loves singing. Originally, Almanza went to school to study Hotel Administration (at Cornell), but she participated in choirs throughout junior and high school (Punahou), as well as in college.

“I always knew in my heart that singing was my real passion and where my heart and soul truly soared,” she says.

It was this love of singing that led her to travel all over the world, and later that same passion fueled her desire to release a sing-a-long CD, which she did with local guitarist Jeff Peterson.

“Sing-A-Long with Lea & Jeff,” which was released nearly five years ago, is a fun collection of favorite children songs, with a Hawaiian slack key guitar twist. The CD was so well received that the duo released a Volume 2 two years ago.

“It was a fun switch in repertoire from my classic pieces, and from Jeff’s guitar favorites,” Alamnza explains. “Over the years we’ve done several live sing-a-longs and really do enjoy these events just as much as our other classical repertoire performances.”

She says that a Hawaiian CD is their next project (if they can find time with their busy schedules). Almanza will be starting up her own vocal studio in the new year, and will also be debuting as Magnolia in Showboat, coming this spring to Diamond Head Theatre.

“I have always thought that once my children were old enough, I would return to the theatre, and Diamond Head Theatre seemed like the ideal community theatre,” she says. “My husband (Joshua, who is an ordained reverend and a chaplain at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children) and I are season ticket holders and are always so impressed with the productions up there.”

Almanza says the role is very exciting for her, but she’s also nervous as she has not performed in a musical since Peter Pan in high school.

Despite her concerns Almanza is working hard to prepare for the role and looks forward to sharing this wonderful musical with local audiences, and she can’t wait to get back on stage!

Tickets are on sale now for Showboat. Visit diamondheadtheatre.com/showboat for tickets and more information.

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