Kiwi star plucked from crowd to duet 'A Whole New World' with Disney Legend Lea Salonga

Former What Now presenter Charlie Pānapa says he feels like his feet haven't touched the ground since he was plucked from the audience at The London Palladium to join musical theatre superstar Lea Salonga in a duet.

"It was quite literally a dream come true," said the New Zealander, who's been living in London for 8 years, after he unexpectedly found himself performing with his idol.

Salonga has starred in Broadway and West End productions including Miss Saigon and Les Misérables and provided the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in Disney's animated film Aladdin and Fa Mulan in the Mulan movie.

She was named a Disney Legend in 2011 for her work with The Walt Disney Company.

Salonga was giving the final performance of her UK solo tour when she asked for a volunteer to join her in singing the Aladdin number A Whole New World and spied Pānapa's floral shirt in the crowd.

"You know what, I want you ... yes, you," she said choosing the Kiwi over other audience members clamouring to duet with her. "The flowers did it," she added as Pānapa made his way to the stage, "I just wanted to see that shirt up close."

Visibly stunned at finding himself centre stage at the sold-out venue, Pānapa, who hosted kids' TV favourite What Now between 2005 and 2011, told Salonga he needed a minute.

"How do you feel, standing up there?" Salonga inquired.

"Like I want to vomit in my mouth," he replied, to laughs from the audience.

Thankfully Pānapa, who studied at the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art in Christchurch and was formerly a member of the New Zealand Secondary Students Choir and the New Zealand Youth Choir, was able to gather his nerves and deliver a spot-on performance of the Disney favourite.

Speaking to the Herald hours after his moment in the spotlight, Pānapa said the experience was a "once in a lifetime" opportunity.

"I thought the entire audience singing along to Frozen's Let it Go was excitement enough… but then to be handpicked from an audience of 2200 to sing one of [Salonga's] songs with her was absolutely indescribable.

Charlie Pānapa in his What Now hosting days.

"I felt many emotions all at once: excitement, nervousness, disbelief and joy at the thought of sharing the stage with someone I have looked up to since I was 8.

"And if that wasn't enough, after the show her tour manager found me and asked me to wait back so I could spend a few precious minutes alone with her, give her a hug, thank her for giving me the experience of a lifetime and to have a photo with her."

This article was first published on the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.