The heat will really be on in Saigon Nov. 2.
Jonathan Pryce, Hinton Battle, Liz Callaway and Willy Falk, the original Broadway stars of Miss Saigon, will appear with the show's creative team at the 4,000th gala performance at the Broadway Theatre Nov. 2.
The 7 PM evening — packed with friends, family and industry people who have supported the show over the years, helping make it the sixth longest-running musical in Broadway history — will include a full performance of the hit megamusical followed by an on-stage celebration at which producer Cameron Mackintosh is expected to speak. Also in attendance will be songwriters and co librettists Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil (whose Les Miserables is packing them in at the Imperial), director Nicholas Hytner, American lyricist Richard Maltby Jr. and others.
Lea Salonga, who won the Tony Award playing the Vietnamese lover of an American G.I., has a professional conflict and will not appear — she's starring in the Philippines in Miss Saigon. Because of her work in the show, Salonga, a Philippines native, is considered one of the great exports of her country.
The Miss Saigon gala will likely include specialty numbers presented in the post-show, according to a spokesman, and there is a block of $20-$85 tickets open to the public. Call (212) 239-6200 for information. The Broadway staging of the 1989 London hit opened April 11, 1991 and became an international sensation. The musical closes Dec. 31, 2000. The show's healthy run is being celebrated at show No. 4000 because a reunion of the creative team and stars might not be possible on New Year's Eve, when people are preoccupied with the holiday
Miss Saigon was inspired by a photograph of a mother being separated from her child, and got Schonberg and Boublil thinking about a Madama Butterfly-like tale of romance, conflict and sacrifice during the 1975 fall of Saigon, which marked the American pullout of the Vietnam War.
The musical tells the tale of American soldier Chris (originally, Willy Falk on Broadway), who falls for a Vietnamese virgin named Kim (Salonga), and how the war comes between them. A Eurasian character named The Engineer (played by Pryce in London and New York, where he won a Tony Award) is desperate to get to America and figures into the changing fortunes of the lovers. Chris' fellow soldier, John (originally, Hinton Battle, who won a Tony), heads a postwar effort to bring aid to suffering Amerasian children — refugees dubbed "the dust of life," or "bui-doi." Ellen (originally, Liz Callaway) is Chris' American wife who doesn't fully understand why he is haunted by the war.
Miss Saigon shares the 4,000 milestone with Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera (both still running), as well as the closed Cats, A Chorus Line and Oh, Calcutta!.
By New Year's Eve, Miss Saigon 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 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, 2000, Miss Saigon celebrated its ninth anniversary on Broadway with performance No. 3,761. 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 Philippines 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 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.
The Broadway Theatre is at 53rd Street and Broadway. Miss Saigon is on the web at http://www.miss saigon.com.