A Look Back at Miss Saigon at 30
This post was originally published on Playbill - Features
Written by: Marc J. Franklin
Following its London debut, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Richard Maltby, Jr., and Alain Boubil’s Miss Saigon opened at the Broadway Theatre April 11, 1991. The production played 19 previews and 4,092 performances before closing January 28, 2001. The musical earned 11 Tony Award nominations and won three, most notably with Lea Salonga becoming the first Asian performer to win a Tony for Best Actress in a Musical.
Inspired by the opera Madame Butterfly, Miss Saigon tells the story of the relationship between a young Vietnamese woman and an American GI during the final days of the Vietnam War. Though noted as a showcase for Asian talent on the Broadway stage, the musical has faced criticism over the years for its lack of Asian representation in its creative teams, as well as for its portrayal of Asian people, in particular Asian women. Additionally, the original Broadway production was met with protests due to its casting of the white actor Jonathan Pryce as the Engineer, a French-Vietnamese character.
A Look Back at the Original Broadway production of Miss Saigon
In addition to Salonga as Kim and Pryce as the Engineer, the original Broadway production starred Hinton Battle as John, Willy Falk as Chris, Liz Callaway as Ellen, and Barry K. Bernal as Thuy alongside ensemble members Zar Acayan, Alan Ariano, Tony C. Avanti, Brian R. Baldomero, Jane Bodle, Raquel C. Brown, Annette Calud, Eric Chan, Marina Chapa, Mirla Criste, Francis J. Cruz, Imelda de los Reyes, Paul Dobie, Michael Gruber, JoAnn M. Hunter, Sala Iwamatsu, Leonard Joseph, Philip Lyle Kong, Darren Lee, Jason Ma, Paul Matsumoto, Sean McDermott, Thomas James O’Leary, Gordon Owens, Christopher Pecaro, Matthew Pedersen, Kris Phillips, W. Ellis Porter, Ray Santos, Jade Kaiwalani Stice, Melanie Mariko Tojio, Alton Fitzgerald White, Nephi Jay Wimmer, and Bruce Winant. Rounding out the company were Kam Cheng as the Kim alternate and Sylvia Dohi, Henry Menendez, Marc Oka, and Todd Zamarripa as swings.
Directed by Nicholas Hytner with musical staging by Bob Avian, Miss Saigon featured production design by John Napier, costumes by Andreane Neofitou and Suzy Benzinger, lighting design by David Hersey, and sound design by Andrew Bruce with stage management by Fred Hanson, Sherry Cohen, and Tom Capps. Visit the Playbill Vault for the complete cast and creative team.
The musical returned to Broadway in 2017 in a Tony-nominated revival starring Eva Noblezada, Jon Jon Briones, Alistair Brammer, Katie Rose Clarke, Nicholas Christopher, Devin Ilaw, and Rachelle Ann Go.