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New 'Miss Saigon' cast continues legacy of past Filipino stars |

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New 'Miss Saigon' cast continues legacy of past Filipino stars

Kristofer Purnell -
New 'Miss Saigon' cast continues legacy of past Filipino stars
Abigail Adriano, Seann Miley Moore, and Kiara Dario in "Miss Saigon"
GMG Productions

MANILA, Philippines — Every individual has their favorite stage musical, but it can't be denied the strong connection Filipinos have to Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil's "Miss Saigon."

The legacy dates back to the production's first-ever run on the West End when Lea Salonga starred as Kim, a role she would reprise on Broadway leading to historic Olivier and Tony Award wins.

Schönberg himself expressed praise for Filipino singers, even calling the Philippines "a soup of talent" as original cast members were found in the country apart from Salonga like Isay Alvarez, Cocoy Laurel, Pinky Amador, Jon Jon Briones, Jamie Rivera, Jenine Desiderio, Robert Seña, and Monique Wilson.

The ongoing run of "Miss Saigon" — an adaptation of Giacomo Puccini's opera "Madama Butterfly" set during the tail-end of the Vietnam War — at The Theatre at Solaire is the musical's first in the Philippines since the turn of the millenium when it was fronted by Salonga herself.

Leading the new run are Filipino-Australians Abigail Adriano and Seann Miley Moore as Kim and the Engineer, respectively, with Nigel Huckle as Chris, Filipino-Kiwi Laurence Mossman as Thuy, and homegrown actress Kiara Dario as Gigi.

Without a doubt the star of the cast is Moore, who dubs their character the "EnginQueer" and portrays them with "bakla energy," a performance that earned praise from producer Cameron Mackintosh.

Related: 'Big Slaysian energy': Abigail Adriano, Seann Miley Moore on their 'Miss Saigon' roles

The role of the Engineer has always been a flamboyant one, expertly performed in the past by the likes of Jonathan Pryce and the previously mentioned Briones (currently on Broadway opposite his daughter Isa in "Hadestown").

But there is something truly different in having a queer, half-Asian actor like Moore play a character who is a victim of societal imbalance, searching for a ladder to climb out of the pit they've unluckily been born into.

Moore steals the show in large-scale numbers like "The Heat is On in Saigon," "What a Waste," and definitely the penultimate "The American Dream" as they command the stage in all their diva energy.

Adriano of course faces the weight of expectations on her shoulders, as Salonga was followed by other Filipino actresses in the role of Kim including Joanna Ampil, Eva Noblezada, and Ma-Anne Dionisio.

The young actress manages to capture Kim's naivety but there is a strength to the character that needs to come out in the latter parts of Act I — particularly "You Will Not Touch Him" and "This Is The Hour" — and all through the second act.

Fans of "Miss Saigon" will no doubt compare Adriano to Salonga and Noblezada's exceptional Kims, which might be unfair to the young Fil-Aussie, but it can't be denied she gives the role justice.

Related: 'Miss Saigon' cast embrace full circle moments in Philippine return

Filipinos can also take pride in seeing Dario do so much with Gigi even with limited appearances. She leaves a lasting impression from "The Movie in My Mind" that carries to a jaw-dropping return in "The American Dream."

Amador, Desiderio, Wilson, and Rivera all attended the gala night of "Miss Saigon" last March 26 and were emotional to see the musical find its way back to Philippine shores.

The Theatre at Solaire may have a relatively small stage, but that hardly comes to mind given the sprawling set pieces of "The Heat is On in Saigon," "The Morning of the Dragon," "What a Waste," "The American Dream," and the ever-iconic "Fall of Saigon."

If not any of those energetic or electric numbers, theater goers will find comfort in the beloved "Sun and Moon" whose lyrics still snatches hearts.

Schönberg also spoke of the timelessness of "Miss Saigon" given the ongoing global wars where innocent lives continue to be affected.

"If you feel different after seeing this musical, then we will have succeeded," Schönberg said of the new staging. "We don't just want to entertain, we want to tug at sentimental strings."

"Miss Saigon" runs at The Theatre at Solaire until May 12.

RELATED: 'Miss Saigon' co-creator praises musical's Philippine connections

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