After the Jan. 28 matinee of Miss Saigon, the heat is off.
The long-running hit musical, Miss Saigon, has its final Broadway curtain Jan. 28, and speeches and farewells are expected to follow the sold-out matinee. Producer Cameron Mackintosh is expected at attend, and there will likely be tears from crew and cast, including Lea Salonga, the actress who originated the role of Kim in London and on Broadway.
A Miss Saigon spokesperson told Playbill On-Line Jan. 26 that there were very few tickets left for performances in the final weekend, and the 3 PM Jan. 28 matinee was sold out. The Sunday matinee marks Miss Saigon's 4,097th performance.
Plans are already afoot for professional regional productions of the show. Theatre Under the Stars in Texas has announced it is the first company in America to secure the rights to produce the show following the Broadway production. It plays the Arena Theatre in Houston March 20-April 1.
Currently, productions are running in Manila and Warsaw, with plans for mountings in Hong Kong (May 2001), Singapore (August 2001) and a United Kingdom tour (starting in Manchester, November 2001). *
Miss Saigon, at the Broadway Theatre, started the New Year with the return of its Tony Award-winning original star, Salonga, Dec. 31, beginning the final month of performances for the socially-aware pop musical about the love among the ruins of a fallen Vietnam.
Also joining the Broadway company were Will Chase, returning as Chris, the G.I. in love with Vietnamese girl, Kim (played by Salonga); Michael K. Lee as Thuy and Ruthie Henshall as Chris' wife, Ellen. Melinda Chua is the alternate Kim (Salonga has not performed Wednesday evenings or Saturday matinees). The company also includes Luoyong Wang as the Engineer and Charles E. Wallace as John.
The smash tuner by Claude Michel Schonberg, Alain Boublil and Richard Maltby Jr. celebrated its 4,000th Broadway performance Nov. 2. At that time, it had been announced that Miss Saigon would end Dec. 31, but producer Cameron Mackintosh opted to extend the show for four weeks with Salonga, into 2001.
The musical is inspired by the same novel that prompted the David Belasco play and the Puccini opera, Madama Butterfly: a novel called "Madame Chrysanthemum." The action of the show is largely set during the 1975 fall of Saigon, when American troops pulled out of Vietnam. (It also flashes forward to 1978.) A major plot point of the musical focuses on the children of American soldiers and Vietnamese women. They are called "Bui-Doi," or "dust of life," and, over the years, Miss Saigon has raised awareness and money for refugee children scarred by war. A total of $3.5 million has been distributed to charities throughout the world by Miss Saigon-inspired Bui-Doi Fund.
"We're not trying to make a musical about the Vietnam War, like movies which have been made about the Vietnam War," director Nicholas Hytner told his cast on the first day of rehearsal in London in 1989. "It's a tragic love story which has the Vietnam War as the background — or at least the end of the Vietnam War."
Freely mixing pop-style ballads, military marches, gospel and more, the score includes such songs as "The Heat is On in Saigon," "The Movie in My Mind," "Why God Why?," "Sun and Moon," "The Last Night of the World," "The Morning of the Dragon," "I Still Believe," "Bui-Doi," "The American Dream."
Henshall won an Olivier Award for her work in London's She Loves Me, and was an ensemble member in London's Miss Saigon before assuming the role of Ellen there. Salonga certainly loves her signature role; she played a return stretch in the Broadway company in 1999.
Jonathan Pryce, Hinton Battle, Liz Callaway and Willy Falk, the original Broadway stars of Miss Saigon, appeared with the show's creative team (sans Boublil, who could not make it) 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 — included a full performance of the hit megamusical followed by an on-stage celebration at which producer Cameron Mackintosh spoke and announced the show's extension. Also in attendance were co-librettist Schonberg (whose Les Miserables is packing them in at the Imperial), director Nicholas Hytner, American lyricist Richard Maltby Jr. and others.
The Broadway staging of the 1989 London hit opened April 11, 1991 and continued to become an international sensation. International productions continue to run.
Embraced for its big tunes, soap-operatic emotions and pungent conjuring of the grit and urgency of the setting and time, Miss Saigon lost the Tony Award in 1991 to The Will Rogers Follies, a sentimental and patriotic frolic that cheered audiences in the months following the Gulf War conflict.
Miss Saigon's celebrated design elements, including the illusion of the shell of a helicopter and chopper blades, were created by John Napier (scenic), Andreane Neofitou (costumes) and David Hersey (lighting). Orchestrations are by William D. Brohn. Bob Avian is credited with musical staging.
For ticket information, call (212) 239-6200, and visit the website at www.miss-saigon.com.