The much anticipated revival of Cameron Mackintosh's Miss Saigon makes it opens tonight with Asian actors at the forefront of the production.
The Broadway production of Cameron Mackintosh’s epic musical drama Miss Saigon is set to open this evening (Thursday 23rd March) at the Broadway Theater in New York.
The musical is partially inspired by Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, and chronicles the love story between a young Vietnamese bargirl, Kim, and American GI, Chris, at the fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War. The original production written by the team behind Les Miserables, premiered in London’s West End in 1989, and on Broadway in 1991, where it ran for 10 years. The original show also famously launched the career of Filipina actress Lea Salonga in the role of Kim. It’s West End revival, which opened in 2014, closed only last year, after stellar reviews and Olivier Award nominations.
The Broadway transfer will be bringing over West End revival cast members, Eva Nobelzada, Rachel Ann-Goh and Jon Jon Briones, in the titular leading roles of Kim, go-go dancer Gigi, and sleezy-pimp ‘The Engineer’ respectively. All three Filipino actors will be making their Broadway debuts, among many other Asian-American ensemble members in the cast including former Les Miserables cast member David Ilaw as Thuy (an officer in the Communist Vietnamese government).
The prominence of Asian actors in this revival feels more poignant this time around after the original production faced backlash after actor Jonathan Pryce’s yellow face ‘Eurasian’ portrayal of the Engineer – the role has since been played by a number of Asian actors. The cast were also interviewed recently for Playbill about how this particular revival goes to serve the Vietnamese narrative much better than previous iterations, including consultants on the use of Vietnamese customs and language in musical numbers.
The musical’s does not come without criticisms for a misogynistic portrayal of woman and a perhaps more glamourised insight into the Vietnamese war, but none the less it is an important story to tell.
Miss Saigon is a welcoming presence in a Broadway season that seems to be more notably white-washed compared to last year’s diverse set of shows
Having watched the West End production back in late 2015 I can personally vouch for how excited I am to see the show return to the Big White Way. The show itself is less of the fantastical love story portrayed in its marketing and more of a dramatic tragic story of how war affects the civilians and soldiers on the ground. For me, Miss Saigon is a welcoming presence in a Broadway season that seems to be more notably white-washed compared to last year’s diverse set of shows (which included the likes of The Colour Purple, On Your Feet!, Allegiance, and box office breaking Hamilton).
The show is a great provides a great platform to showcase Asian talent and I hope it will become an opportunity for more stories like it to reach theatre audiences in the future.