Miss Saigon, the smash megamusical inspired by Madame Butterfly and written by the Les Miserables songwriters, may be ending its Broadway run at the Broadway Theatre Dec. 31, but it's going out impressively. The nine-year-old musical turns 4,000, Nov. 2, according to The Publicity Office. The performance is likely to be followed by a ceremony of some sort, though there's no word yet on what kind of celebration will be held for the milestone.
Miss Saigon is only the sixth show in Broadway history to make 4,000 performances. The currently running Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera has, as well as the closed Cats, A Chorus Line and Oh, Calcutta!.
With the Dec. 31 closing, the Tony Award-winning musical will have played almost 10 years in New York, following a 1989 premiere in London. By New Year's Eve, it will have stacked up 4,063 performances.
Long considered a "British musical," it's actually a unique international collaboration by British producer Cameron Mackintosh and director Nicholas Hytner, French composer librettist Claude-Michel Schonberg and French librettist-lyricist Alain Boublil, and American lyricist Richard Maltby Jr. — not to mention American choreographer Bob Avian and a host of international Asian performers.
In a statement, producer Mackintosh said, "Much as I will miss Saigon at the Broadway Theatre, I am utterly thrilled at how long this serious musical has run both on Broadway and in London. It has also been very heartening for everyone involved to have been able to deliver on our promise of putting on a production that has been the greatest platform for Asian talent in theatrical history. I have no doubt that Miss Saigon will continue to appear all over the globe even though she might be in a different frock." The musical, set in the 1970s with the backdrop of the fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War, opened on Broadway April 11, 1991, and won its stars, Lea Salonga and Jonathan Pryce, and supporting actor Hinton Battle, Tony Awards.
The next tenant at the Broadway will be Bells Are Ringing, the Faith Prince starrer directed by Tina Landau. Bells begins performances at the Broadway Theatre in April, 2001.
On April 11, Miss Saigon celebrated its ninth anniversary on Broadway with performance No. 3,761.
The musical is inspired by Madame Butterfly, but has an American G.I. falling for a young Vietnamese girl during the 1975 fall of Saigon. A ruthless Eurasian character named The Engineer, desperate to get to America, gets tangled in the lives of the lovers.
Hytner directed the costly-to-run, pageant-like production, first in London and then in New York City.
The musical's centerpiece visual moment involves the illusion of a helicopter taking off at the American embassy in Saigon, separating lovers Kim and Chris. In addition to its full heart, the show also has a social conscience as it addresses the orphaned children who came from unions between Vietnamese women and U.S. servicemen. A film of children in a refugee camp appears in Act Two, in a number called "Bui-Doi."
Miss Saigon made headlines from the moment it was announced for New York City. The casting Philipines native Lea Salonga, recreating her London role, was rejected by Actors' Equity. The white, British Pryce in a biracial French-Asian role was also protested by the American acting community in 1990-91. Producer Cameron Mackintosh famously threatened to cancel plans for the multi-million dollar staging. The acting community, including Actors' Equity, gave in.
It is thought that some 28 million people worldwide have seen Miss Saigon in London, New York, on tour and in resident stagings in Tokyo, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Budapest, Sydney and beyond. The Broadway production has grossed $264 million (as of April 23) and has been seen by more than 5.9 million people.
The show made headlines for its $100 top ticket price, and its nearly $40 million advance sale.
The current Broadway company features four original cast members from 1991: Alan Ariano, Francis J. Cruz, Sylvia Dohi and Ray Santos.
The current cast includes Luoyong Wang as The Engineer, Melinda Chua as Kim, Michael Flanigan as Chris, C.C. Brown as John, Edmund Nalzaro as Thuy and Margaret Ann Gates as Ellen. Elizabeth Paw plays the role of Kim at certain performances.
Tickets are $20-$80. The Broadway Theatre is at 53rd Street and Broadway. For tickets, call (212) 239-6200. Miss Saigon is on the web at http://www.miss-saigon.com.
Earlier this year, it was announced that Broadway's longest running musical, Cats, also a Mackintosh product, will close June 25. New of the closing of Miss Saigon first broke in the Associated press April 27.