Eva Noblezada will never forget the day she found out she landed the starring role of Kim in the London revival of Miss Saigon. The life-changing moment took place in 2013, shortly after her high school graduation from the Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Casting director Tara Rubin spotted Noblezada during the National High School Musical Theatre Awards in July of that year, and within months she was in her final callback on the stage of Broadway’s Majestic Theatre (home to the long-running hit Phantom of the Opera), performing for Cameron Mackintosh, and members of the Miss Saigon creative team.
“I sang ‘Sun and Moon,’ and they sat me in the auditorium, and then Cameron asked, ‘Would you like to move to London?’ And I was like, ‘Uh yeah!’ There were a whole lot of tears,” Noblezada recalls.
On May 21, 2014, Miss Saigon opened at the Prince Edward Theatre in London’s West End, and Noblezada became a star overnight. It was a no-brainer that the American-born actress, with a slate of stellar reviews in tow, would repeat her work when Saigon transferred to Broadway.
She’s poised to experience a bit of déjà vu when Saigon opens March 23 at the Broadway Theatre, where the original Tony-winning production opened in 1991.
Noblezada is well aware that she’s following in the actual footsteps of Lea Salonga, who made her Broadway debut as Kim at the age of 20 after being discovered by the show’s creators during a casting search in Manila. (Salonga’s experience is captured in the documentary The Making of Miss Saigon.)
“It’s really special because it’s like a torch has been passed down from woman to woman, starting with Lea Salonga. I can’t really put it into words, and I haven’t really let it sink in yet, that it gets to be me in New York.”
With nearly two years of London performances under her belt, Noblezada says her portrayal and understanding of Kim will be a deeper experience on Broadway. “I did a lot of research when I first started, but I was really quite young. There are new layers to the show I didn't realize until I started doing it more and more. I grew up with the show more over the past two years.”
The performance is also more personal for Noblezada this time around. “The love story is also new for me,” she says. “I think that’s the freshest thing for me, because when I first started I’d never been in love. That was something that I didn’t really understand. And especially now, love is a whole new meaning for me and with family and people in my life. It’s nice to add freshness from my personal life from the show every night.”
As a young performer, Noblezada said she often looked up to Salonga. Not only were several songs from the score in her rep book, she also constantly watched the Disney films Aladdin and Mulan, which featured Salonga’s voice. And, like Salonga, Noblezada makes her Broadway debut at the age of 20.
She says she is aware that another generation is now looking to her as a role model, and has words of advice for other up-and-coming artists: “Stop comparing yourself with other people, because that’s how you fail. Always speaking lovingly to yourself, and encourage yourself. You can’t expect people to do that for you because they need that too, from themselves. And just keep working your butt off. I’m still working my butt off and it’s paying off. I hope in five years, I’ll say I worked my butt off in that show. I want to keep seeing work come in. Also, as a woman and as an actor, [I want to] be loving to myself.”