Saturday, May 05, 2007

Miss Saigon (2000 and 2007)

The first expensive date that I and my then friend and now wife, Lilia, was when we watched the Philippine production of the musical Miss Saigon, a decade after it first opened in London.

Miss Saigon

Miss Saigon ran for ten years in London where it had 4,264 performances and became the third most successful musical in the history of British theatre and the longest running show ever to play in Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. In Broadway it had 4,092 performances in a span of 10 years and broke several Broadway records including record advance-ticket sales at $24 million, highest priced ticket at $100, and repaying investors in less than 39 weeks. Other Miss Saigon productions were made in Japan, Hungary, Germany, Netherlands, Poland and Korea plus tours in UK and US.

I still have our tickets to the Philippine production of Miss Saigon.


The Philippine production ran for only 6 months but before the first show started, tickets for the first three months were already sold out. Why not? Lea Salonga, a Filipina, starred as the first ever Kim in the original London production of Miss Saigon in 1989 and she was also Kim when it moved to Broadway in 1991. The musical's lead roles usually had alternates and we're lucky that on the night we watched Miss Saigon, it was Lea Salonga who played Kim. For PhP 3,605 per person it was not cheap. I knew that the cast was very talented but I was wondering what a live 3-hour musical performed on a stage can offer when compared to the varied locations and the special effects of movies especially when CGI (computer graphics imagery) was used. One thing was clear though, when the ticket says "Orchestra Side" you can bet that there's really a conductor and a full orchestra nearby that plays during the show. And after watching the show, all I can say is that it's worth it. I was amazed how they did the scene transitions using lights, rotating sets, sliding walls and buildings without any pause and dull moment for set preparation while the actors played continuously in one long medley of fantastic songs. There was a very convincing slow motion scene in the American Embassy and a scene where you simultaneously see Kim in Vietnam and Ellen in America while they both sang to their beloved Chris - it's like having an extremely big plasma display showing two different channels in 3D. And of course there was that spectacular helicopter scene coupled with great lighting and surround sound effects.

There's a Miss Saigon production now showing in Australia where Filipinos Leo Valdez and Jennifer Trijo play the role of The Engineer and Kim respectively. Why not watch it there if you want. There's also a Japanese production that will start next year (2008).

The inspiration to make Miss Saigon was a photo taken a few weeks before the fall of Saigon, of a woman giving up her child at Saigon airport in the hope of a new life in America (source: Miss Saigon Australia).

Miss Saigon Inspiration

Catch it if you can.

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