Tickets to Saigon 2014 on sale starting Sept. 9
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - September 10, 2013 - 12:00am

BREAKING NEWS: Starting yesterday, Sept. 9, tickets to Miss Saigon’s staging in May 2014 have started selling.

This piece of good news was relayed to Funfare by Big Apple correspondent Edmund Silvestre.

“London must now be feeling the heat of Miss Saigon mania as the box office for the West End restaging is thrown open,” said Edmund.

But the big question hangs in the air: Will another Filipino talent be included in the cast? There was a series of auditions here last year for various roles, most especially for the role of Kim (originated on West End by Lea Salonga, with Monique Wilson as alternate, when the Cameron Mackintosh megahit musical opened in 1989), and six were short-listed as “most likely,” including Frencheska Farr, Tanya Manalang, Apple Chiu, Emerald Banares, Mary Jane Solomon and Rachelle Ann Go.

“The search for the newest Kim is continuing,” noted Edmund.

When I interviewed Mackintosh in Tokyo in December last year during the junket for Les Miserables, I asked him about it and he said that, at that time, he hadn’t seen the audition tapes yet. But he added that the Miss Saigon was coming, “But I’m not sure yet where and when.”

But Edmund has the answer, bless him!

“This time, it will be at Prince Albert Theatre, an equally impressive venue as the grandiose Theatre Royale, Drury Lane where the original Miss Saigon was first staged 24 years ago and went on to be a phenomenal success around the world, including the United States,” said Edmund.

To be exact, Miss Saigon debuted in London on Sept. 20, 1989 (with the late Princess Diana gracing the gala night and meeting the cast) and closed on Oct. 30, 1999, after 4,264 performances. On Broadway, it opened on April 11, 1991, at the Broadway Theater, and closed on Jan. 29, 2001 after 4,092 performances.

Years ago, Miss Saigon’s multi-awarded producer Cameron Mackintosh intended to do the film adaptation of the smash musical, to be helmed by acclaimed filmmaker Lee Daniels (Precious, Lee Daniels’ The Butler). Mackintosh eventually deemed it best to bring back the helicopter on stage one more time before letting it soar onto IMAX screens. It is currently the 11th longest-running musical in theater history.

“Of all my shows, Miss Saigon is probably the one I have the most requests to bring back,” Mackintosh confided to your Funfarer. “These requests are not only from a public who remembers seeing it originally but from a generation of new audiences who were too young (or not even born) to get to see it.”

Edmund recalled that Lee Daniels recently told The Hollywood Reporter that he is “hoping to get Miss Saigon off the ground” once he finished the biopic of rocker Janis Joplin, with Amy Adams in the lead.

During our interview, Mackintosh indirectly confirmed that Miss Saigon The Movie would be pushed through depending on the box-office performance of the film adaptation of his other opus, Les Miserables. With a production budget of $61M, Les Miz grossed $438M worldwide ($150M in the US alone) and won three Academy Awards. A smash-hit in any currency.

Now focused on the restaging of Miss Saigon, Mackintosh is doubly thrilled about the revival based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, that follows the doomed romance between an American G.I. and a Vietnamese bar girl set during the Vietnam War in 1975 in the final days of the American occupation of Saigon. Mackintosh promised that the updated edition of Miss Saigon will be fiercer as it has become even more relevant today, with a new generation of audiences most likely to appreciate it even better.

“In the last 24 years,” Edmund quoted Mackintosh as saying, “our country has become involved in similar wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the way we weren’t in Vietnam and the American Dream has been buffeted by the reality of recent history. 

“The new production has taken a more gritty and realistic approach to the design than the operatic original but still delivers the power and epic sweep of (Alain) Boublil and (Claude-Michel) Schönberg’s great score.”

The new Miss Saigon will also feature a compelling new song Maybe, from the Les Miz songwriting duo of Claude-Michel Schönberg  and Alain Boublil, with Richard Maltby Jr. co-penning the English lyrics adapted from the original French. Maybe was written for the character of Ellen to sing in the second act which has been included in the recent Dutch and Japanese productions but London audiences will be the first to hear the song in English, according to Mackintosh.

The new production will be directed by Laurence Connor, with musical staging by Bob Avian.

Edmund said, “At the moment, the theater world is waiting with bated breath who will give life to the lead characters Kim, The Engineer and the American G.I., made famous respectively by Lea, Jonathan Pryce and British stage actor Simon Bowman. Both Lea and Jonathan went on to win the highest theater awards in the world — Tony and Laurence Olivier —  and turned Lea into a Broadway and West End royalty that she is today. In fact, Lea scored a grand slam.”

Since last year, producers have been scouting and auditioning for the newest cast who can vie again for Tony, Olivier and other major theater awards in the revival category. And just like 24 years ago, the team behind Miss Saigon, as I have noted earlier, flew to Manila last year in search of their newest Kim, with additional auditions and casting calls held later in London and New York.

Former Disney artist Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, who is based in Los Angeles, is said to be eyeing the role of bar girl Gigi, another high-profile role that was first played in London by Isay Alvarez.

Among the male hopefuls, Broadway World reported that theater actors Lorenz Martinez, Jake Macapagal, Noel Rayos and Topper Fabregas made the final round of auditions, as well as Singaporean stage actor Hossan Leong.

Aside from Lea and Isay, the 13 Pinoys in London’s original cast also included Monique Wilson (who played the bar girl Mimi and also was Lea’s understudy), Pinky Amador, Cocoy Laurel, Robert Seña, Michael Williams, Jenine Desiderio, Jonjon Briones, Andy Lanai, Jay Ibot, Bobby Martino, Lyon Roque, Miguel Diaz and Junix Inocian.

The list of the 2014 cast will be announced anytime soon. Stay tuned.

And speaking of Lea, she may find herself in demand for numerous guestings and interviews as early as next year prior to the London opening of Miss Saigon in May.

Last week, Lea was among the celebrities who graced the staging of Jersey Boys, another Broadway musical smash, at the Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

According to VegasNews.com, Lea went backstage after the show to personally congratulate the cast on their performance.

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. You may also send your questions to askrickylo@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)

COM EDMUND LEA LEE DANIELS MACKINTOSH MISS MISS SAIGON SAIGON
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