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The Heat is On: ‘Miss Saigon’ Returns to Broadway

March 23rd, 2017 Comments off

 

The London production of 'Miss Saigon.' (Photo: Michael Le Poer Trench and Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

The London production of ‘Miss Saigon.’ (Photo: Michael Le Poer Trench and Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

I didn’t leave the Broadway Theatre with tears in my eyes after seeing Miss Saigon, the mega-musical revival by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Richard Maltby, Jr., and Alain Boublil. About five blocks from the theatre, it hit me, though, and the tears streamed down my face. All I could hear was the voice of Kim (Eva Noblezada), the parentless teenager forced into a life of prostitution during the Vietnam War…

“I’m seventeen, and I’m new here today.
The village I come from seems so far away.
All of these girls know much more what to say
But I know, I’m so much more than you see.
A million dreams are in me—”

Even Noblezada as Kim in the London production of 'Miss Saigon.' (Photo: Michael Le Poer Trench and Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Even Noblezada as Kim in the London production of ‘Miss Saigon.’ (Photo: Michael Le Poer Trench and Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

When it originally opened on Broadway in 1991, the Vietnam War was still a not-too-distant memory. Now, nearly 40 years since its end, audiences may see Miss Saigon through a different lens, but one that is just as tainted by the atrocities happening throughout Syria and the Middle East and our own political turmoil on domestic land.

The revival, directed by Laurence Conner and musically staged and choreographed by Bob Avian, is the sweeping, dramatic, and anything-but-subtle journey of Kim’s quest for survival and the aftermath of her brief encounter with an American G.I. named Chris (Alistair Brammer).

The pair’s deep connection is cut short with the fall of Saigon when Chris is forced, along with his buddy John (Nicholas Christopher) and the remaining American troops, to evacuate. Kim is left behind under the sinister eye of the bar owner, otherwise known as The Engineer (Jon Jon Briones), to fend for herself against her cousin, Thuy (Devin Ilaw), to whom she was promised in marriage.

Years later, Chris is now married to Ellen (Katie Rose Clarke) and gets word that Kim is still alive, living in Thailand, and has born him a son, Tam. In an attempt to reconcile his past, Chris, along with Ellen and John, head to Bangkok to meet Kim. Upon discovering that Chris is married, Kim realizes that the dream of a life with him is a fantasy and that the only chance for her young son’s future in America is if she sacrifices herself. A fatal, self-inflicted gunshot wound ends her tragic journey—a stark symbol of the estimated two million civilian lives lost during the Vietnam War.

Reeling off the successful 2014 London revival, Noblezada, Briones, and Bammer have all joined the Broadway company to reprise their roles (along with the stellar Rachelle Ann Go as Gigi), and their deeply dedicated performances carry the sweeping score to new heights. Miss Saigon is a huge show (a cast of 44) in a huge theatre (1,761 seats) and nearly everything about this production is elevated to scale, including the iconic helicopter that comes barreling in from the rafters in Act II’s dramatic flashback sequence.

Even so, Miss Saigon relies just as heavily on its emotions. Connor directs the cast with high stakes, amplified to reach the last row of the balcony. But within this amplified reality, Noblezada can carry your heart in the palm of her hand. With a voice at times a girlish whisper and at others a defiant survivor, she is the face of a fallen country and it is nothing short of heartbreaking. Briones and Clarke are dutiful in their roles, as is Christopher, who delivers the poignant anthem “Bui Doi,” which pays tribute to the thousands of Amerasian children born during the war.

Eva Noblezada in the London production of 'Miss Saigon." (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog)

Eva Noblezada in the London production of ‘Miss Saigon.” (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog)

It is Jon Jon Briones who gets top billing and the final bow (save for whichever little boy is playing Tam, which offers one final heartstring tug before the curtain falls). Briones has been associated with Miss Saigon since the original 1989 London production where, as a production assistant, he weaseled his way into an audition and landed a role in the ensemble.

Now 28 years later, Briones has come into his own and perhaps brings a bit of closure to the role’s original controversy of casting Caucasian actor Jonathan Pryce in the Eurasian role. Briones is a spitfire and delivers much-needed humor to the otherwise ballad-heavy score, and it is his 11 o’clock number, “The American Dream,” that puts Miss Saigon smack dab in the middle of 21st-century relevancy, climaxing with:

Jon Jon Briones in the London production of 'Miss Saigon.' (Photo: Michael Le Poer and Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Jon Jon Briones in the London production of ‘Miss Saigon.’ (Photo: Michael Le Poer and Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Live like you haven’t a care.
The American Dream.

Take even more than it’s fair.
The American Dream…

Spend when the cupboard is bare.
The American Dream.

Just sell your soul and you gain the American Dream.

At the performance I saw, Briones at one point improvised, “Make America Great Again”—a purposeful jab at today’s headlines—and the audience lapped it up. But it wasn’t necessary. His performance and the material on the page deliver the message loud and clear.

In a season of stripped down revivals, including minimalistic productions of Sunset Boulevard, The Glass Menagerie, and Sunday in the Park With George, you’ll feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth with Miss Saigon‘s flashy production design (conceived by Adrian Vaux and designed by Totie Driver and Matt Kinley). But once you’ve left the theatre and the stage goes dim, it will be Miss Saigon’s haunting score and timely reflection on how war impacts the human spirit that will stay with you.

Miss Saigon
Broadway Theatre
1681 Broadway, NYC
Through January 2018

Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on social media at @roodeloo.

3 to See: March

March 7th, 2017 Comments off

Spring is around the corner and the means a whole new crop of Broadway shows bursting on the scene. Here are our three picks of the month:

Sally Field and Joe Mantello in 'The Glass Menagerie' (Photo: Julieta Cervantes via The Broadway Blog.)

Sally Field and Joe Mantello in ‘The Glass Menagerie’ (Photo: Julieta Cervantes via The Broadway Blog.)

The Glass Menagerie
It’s Tennessee Williams like you’ve never seen it before. Sam Gold directs an all-star cast that includes Academy Award winner Sally Field, Tony Award Joe Mantello, Finn Wittrock and Madison Ferris in her Broadway debut. Stripped down to its electrifying core, don’t expect a flashy set typical of the Great White Way. Instead, Gold puts the Pulitzer Prize-winning play front and center, where it belongs. Following a few days in the lives of the dysfunctional Wingfield family, the memory play examines the family ties that bind and the cost to break free.

The Glass Menagerie
Belasco Theatre
111 West 44th Street, NYC
Opening night: March 8

The cast of 'Come From Away' (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of ‘Come From Away’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Come From Away
A sleeper hit that’s been inching its way to Broadway after record-breaking engagements in La Jolla, Seattle, Washington D.C. and Toronto, this new musical is inspired by harrowing source material. On September 11, 2001, 38 planes with 6,579 passengers were stranded in a remote town in Newfoundland. The locals opened their hearts and homes, hosting this international community of strangers—spurring unexpected camaraderie in extraordinary circumstances. Christopher Ashley (Memphis) directs.

Come From Away
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street, NYC
Opening night: March 12

Eva Noblezada in the London production of 'Miss Saigon.' (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Eva Noblezada in the London production of ‘Miss Saigon.’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Miss Saigon
The 90s mega-musical returns with the revival of Miss Saigon, Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Boublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical. Featuring its acclaimed stars from the London production, Jon Jon Briones, Eva Noblezada, Alistair Brammer, and Rachelle Ann Go, Miss Saigon promises to wallop audiences once again with sweeping melodies and scenic spectacle (Production Design by Totie Driver and Matt Kinley; Design Concept by Adrian Vaux.)

In the last days of the Vietnam War, 17-year-old Kim is forced to work in a Saigon bar run by a notorious character known as the Engineer. There she meets and falls in love with an American G.I. named Chris, but they are torn apart by the fall of Saigon. For three years Kim goes on an epic journey of survival to find her way back to Chris, who has no idea he’s fathered a son. Bring tissues!

Miss Saigon
Broadway Theatre
1681 Broadway
Opening night: March 23

Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on social media at @roodeloo

 

 

 

‘Miss Saigon’ Returns to Broadway

February 28th, 2017 Comments off
Eva Noblezada in the London production of 'Miss Saigon.' (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Eva Noblezada in the London production of ‘Miss Saigon.’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Previews begin Wednesday, March 1 at 8 pm for Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed new production of Boublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical Miss Saigon, at The Broadway Theatre (1681 Broadway). The original production ofMiss Saigon opened at the same theatre on April 11, 1991 and played through January 28, 2001.

Directed by Laurence Connor (the recent hit revival of Les Misérables, School of Rock), the Broadway return ofMiss Saigon will feature four of its London stars: Jon Jon Briones as The Engineer, Eva Noblezada as Kim, Alistair Brammer as Chris and Rachelle Ann Go as Gigi. The cast also includes Katie Rose Clarke as Ellen, Nicholas Christopher as John, Devin Ilaw as Thuy. Lianah Sta. Ana will play the role of Kim at certain performances.Miss Saigon has its official opening Thursday, March 23 at 6:30 pm.Miss Saigon will play a limited engagement through January 13, 2018 before launching a North American tour.

The London production of 'Miss Saigon.' (Photo: Michael Le Poer Trench and Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

The London production of ‘Miss Saigon.’ (Photo: Michael Le Poer Trench and Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Miss Saigon has music by Claude-Michel Schönberg with lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. and Alain Boublil, adapted from original French lyrics by Alain Boublil, with additional lyrics by Michael Mahler. The new production is directed by Laurence Connor with musical staging by Bob Avian and additional choreography by Geoffrey Garratt. Production design is by Totie Driver and Matt Kinley based on an original concept by Adrian Vaux; costume design by Andreane Neofitou; lighting design by Bruno Poet; sound design by Mick Potter; and projections by Luke Halls.  Orchestrations are by William David Brohn; musical supervision by Stephen Brooker and musical direction by James Moore.  Casting is by Tara Rubin Casting / Merri Sugarman CSA.

Miss Saigon tells the story of the last days of the Vietnam War, when 17-year-old Kim (Eva Noblezada) is forced to work in a Saigon bar run by a notorious character known as the Engineer (Jon Jon Briones).  There she meets and falls in love with an American GI named Chris (Alistair Brammer) but they are torn apart by the fall of Saigon.  For three years Kim goes on an epic journey of survival to find her way back to Chris, who has no idea he has fathered a son.

The new production of Miss Saigon opened in London in May 2014 to record-breaking advance sales and critical acclaim. Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph wrote, “This thrilling new production spills out beyond the theater and speaks directly to the times we live in.  Not only one of the most innovative shows of the last quarter century, but one of the most profound and lasting great musicals of the 20th century.  There is something in the air which meansMiss Saigon is not only right to come back, but it is urgent and necessary that it comes back now.”

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She’s Back! ‘Miss Saigon’ Returns to Broadway

August 4th, 2016 Comments off
Eva Noblezada in the London production of 'Miss Saigon." (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog)

Eva Noblezada in the London production of ‘Miss Saigon.” (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog)

Cameron Mackintosh announced today that his acclaimed new production of Boublil and Schönberg’slegendary musical Miss Saigon – a recent smash hit in London – will return to New York at its original home, The Broadway Theatre (1681 Broadway) beginning performances Wednesday, March 1. The original production of Miss Saigon opened at the same theater on April 11, 1991 and played there through January 28, 2000.

Directed by Laurence Connor (Les Misérables, School of Rock), the Broadway return of Miss Saigon will feature its American stars, Jon Jon Briones as The Engineer and 20-year-old  Eva Noblezada as Kim, who created these roles in the West End to great acclaim.

Even Noblezada as Kim in the London production of 'Miss Saigon.' (Photo: Michael Le Poer Trench and Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Even Noblezada as Kim in the London production of ‘Miss Saigon.’ (Photo: Michael Le Poer Trench and Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Ms. Noblezada was discovered three years ago by the Miss Saigon casting team at the National High School Musical Theater Awards, also known as the Jimmy Awards in honor of the legendary James Nederlander, who passed away last week. Opening night for Miss Saigon will be Thursday, March 23.  MISS SAIGON will play a limited engagement through January 14, 2018 before launching a North American tour later in the year.  Additional casting will be announced in the coming weeks.

Cameron Mackintosh said, “It’s hard to believe that it has been 25 years since Miss Saigon first opened in New York, but if anything, the tragic love story of the show has become even more relevant today with the conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.  This new production, directed by Laurence Connor, takes a grittier, more realistic approach than the original production while still delivering the power and epic sweep of Boublil and Schönberg’s tremendous score. ”

“Of all my shows, Miss Saigon is the one that I have received the most requests from the public to bring back, and I am thrilled that Broadway audiences will get to see this tremendous new production that audiences and critics in London have embraced since it opened in 2014,” continued Mackintosh. “And I am delighted that our wonderful London stars, Jon Jon Briones and Eva Noblezada, will be bringing their stunning performances across the Atlantic. Audiences who can’t wait will get a preview of the scale of this wonderful production at forthcoming screenings of the Miss Saigon 25th Anniversary Performance which was filmed live in London, in selected screens across America on September 22.”

A scene from the London production of 'Miss Saigon.' (Photo: Michael Le Poer Trench and Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

A scene from the London production of ‘Miss Saigon.’ (Photo: Michael Le Poer Trench and Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

The new London production of Miss Saigon opened in London in May 2014 to record-breaking advance sales and critical acclaim. Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph wrote, “This thrilling new production spills out beyond the theater and speaks directly to the times we live in – magnificent performances.”  Dominic Maxwell in The Times called the production “thrilling, soaring and spectacular.”

The reviews for its stars were also raves. David Benedict in Variety wrote, “In an astonishing stage debut, Eva Noblezada gives a thrilling performance as Kim, with poise, power and a superb voice.”  And Dominic Maxwell in The Times said Jon Jon Briones plays the Engineer with “brilliant, avaricious charm.”

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Breaking: ‘Miss Saigon’ Returns to Broadway in 2017

November 19th, 2015 Comments off

saigon

Cameron Mackintosh announced today that his acclaimed new production of Boublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical Miss Saigon – a smash hit in London since its premiere there in May, 2014 – will open on Broadway in the spring of 2017 at a Shubert theater to be announced. The Broadway return of Miss Saigon will feature its acclaimed London stars, Filipino-born and L.A resident Jon Jon Briones as The Engineer and 19-year-old North Carolina native Eva Noblezada as Kim, who was discovered by the Miss Saigon casting team at the National High School Musical Awards two years ago in New York. First performance and opening night dates will be announced at a later date.

Cameron Mackintosh said “It’s hard to believe that it has been nearly 25 years since Miss Saigon first opened in New York, but if anything, the tragic love story of the show has become even more relevant today with the conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. This new production, directed by Laurence Connor, takes a grittier, more realistic approach than the original production while still delivering the power and epic sweep of Boublil and Schönberg’s tremendous score.”

“Of all my shows, Miss Saigon is the one that I have received the most requests from the public to bring back, and I am thrilled that Broadway audiences will get to see this tremendous new production that audiences and critics in London have embraced since it opened last year,” continued Mackintosh. “And I am delighted that our wonderful London stars, Jon Jon Briones and Eva Noblezada, will be bringing their stunning performances across the Atlantic.”

“Because of the complexity of creating as big a production as Miss Saigon, we have decided to put together one Company to play North America, launching with a limited season on Broadway. And I am thrilled that every major theater across the country is eager to host the show, which has not been seen on this grand scale, and with such an unusually large multi-cultural cast, since the original production closed 15 years ago,” said Mackintosh.

Miss Saigon will perform on Broadway through January 15, 2018 before launching its national tour later in the year in Providence, R.I, followed by engagements in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, Washington, DC, Philadelphia and more than 50 additional cities.

The full backstage story of how the new production that will be on Broadway and then touring North America was created, “The Heat Is Back On,” has just been released on DVD by Universal and is one of the most comprehensive insights into how a big musical is put together that has ever been filmed.

Members of the public can visit www.saigonbroadway.com to sign up for Priority Ticket Access.

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A Musical Memorial Day Tribute

May 25th, 2015 Comments off
"An American in Paris" (photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

“An American in Paris” (photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Dating back to the Civil War, Memorial Day has honored those who have died while serving in our country’s armed forces. We salute their service, and pay homage with some of our favorite musicals inspired by their stories.

An American in Paris is one of the season’s biggest hits and follows a soldier’s post-World War II adventures in Paris.

 

Miss Saigon returns with a brand new production in London’s West End. The Daily Mall said, “the greatest musical of all time just got better.” Take a peek…

 

Frank Wildhorn, Gregory Boyd and Jack Murphy’s musical about the Civil War received a makeover (and a new title) this spring: Freedom’s Song: Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War at the Ford’s Theatre. It is part of Ford’s 150, a series of events commemorating the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination.

Olivier Awards Sneak Peek

April 11th, 2015 Comments off

Old favorites return at this year’s Olivier Awards, including revivals of Cats and Miss Saigon, along with electric productions of recent hits in the U.S. such as Here Lies Love, Beautiful – The Carol King Musical and more. Take a sneak peek!