For showtune fans in the Philippines, Miss Saigon is a source of national pride. After all, during its inaugural run on the West End in 1989 (and in the Broadway run in 1991), Lea Salonga played the protagonist Kim, a young Vietnamese bargirl. She is joined by fellow Filipinas Isay Alvarez and Monique Wilson. It doesn’t stop there: when it was revived on the West End in 2014, Fil-Am Eva Noblezada bagged the role of Kim, with Jon Jon Briones and Rachelle Anne Go.
To celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2014, the West End revival producer Cameron Mackintosh announced that it will have a cinema screening of the gala, which will have worldwide screenings, Manila included!
The news that Manila is included was announced earlier this month by the musical’s official Twitter account, when a Filipino asked if it will be screened here. When @thejohnjuan tweeted “Release it worldwide, or make a movie! Pleaseeeee,” the account asked where he was from. Finding out he’s from the Philippines, it answered, “It’ll be showing in cinemas there 20th October 2016! x”
During the 25th birthday of Miss Saigon, the Prince Edward Theater in London invited the original cast members of the musical to perform with the cast of the West End revival. In the finale video spreading on social media, the video opens with the shadow of a person with only the Vietnamese conical hat visible (nón lá if you want to be accurate). The crowd loses it completely—this writer included—when the figure removes the hat to reveal that it is… Salonga.
She opens the show with a powerful rendition of This Is the Hour, proving that nothing can beat the original Kim. She is then joined by Rachelle Ann, and they sing a duet of The Movie in My Mind. Of course, Rachelle Anne is also talented and was able to match Lea’s vocal prowess. To foreigners, it was an excellent performance, but for Filipinos, it’s proof that Filipino talent is world-class! After the number, Lea praised Rachelle’s singing, saying “That woman is so good,” then joking, “Okay, now back to me.”
Miss Saigon is created by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil (who also wrote the songs of Les Misérables), and is based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly. The story follows an American GI soldier who falls in love with a bargirl when he is briefly stationed in Saigon during the Vietnam War. It was nominated for four awards at the Laurence Olivier Awards in 1989, winning both Best Actor and Actress for Jonathan Pryce as the Engineer, and Salonga. In 1991, it was nominated for 11 awards at the Tony Awards, winning best actor for both Pryce and Salonga, and best featured actor for Hinton Battle as John.
To date, the musical is the 13th longest-running show on Broadway. There are talks about adapting it to a movie, with Danny Boyle attached as the director.
Watch the trailer of the anniversary gala below:
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