This week, the new Cameron Mackintosh revival of “Miss Saigon” debuted at The Saenger Theatre and is set to run through Jan. 26.
The Broadway production follows the life of Kim, a Vietnamese woman who is orphaned during the Vietnam War and forced to work in a “bar” by a love-to-hate character named “The Engineer.” In between performance numbers that could cause some to clutch their pearls, Kim meets and falls in love with an American G.I. named Chris. Separated during the fall of Saigon, Kim spends three years trying to get back to Chris, who does not know he fathered a son.
Before seeing the production, I caught up with Emily Bautista, who plays Kim, to talk about the show and the impact it has made.
Kelly Massicot: As someone who has never seen the production of “Miss Saigon,” how would you describe the show for me?
Emily Bautista: The story of Miss Saigon follows the last couple days of the Vietnam war. It centers around the fall of Ho Chi Minh City, or as it was then called, Saigon. My character Kim, a 17-year-old girl orphaned by this war finds herself moving to the city after her village was burned in order to find work. She meets the Engineer and works for him at the nightclub. At the brothel house she meets American G.I. Chris. They fall in love and have a child but are separated during the evacuation. The story follows Kim and Chris’s love and their struggle to survive in the world following the end of the war. Our show portrays the American G. I. perspective, as well as the Vietnamese. It’s one story of many.
KM: What is your favorite part about being in this production?
EB: I love telling a story about love. Our show tells the story of two people who came from different sides of the world, spoke different languages, had different cultures and managed to see past all the obstacles and find the human connection and love they needed to survive. It is love in its truest form. Beyond racism and fear, love exists.
KM: The background of the production I have read leads me to the idea that this story was real life for many during that time in the war. Is there added pressure or any other emotions that come along with portraying a woman that easily could be someone in the audience’s mother, grandmother, aunt, etc.?
EB: It does! As an actor I strive to do the character on the page justice, but knowing this could be someone’s story, and after meeting people whose stories are similar, I bring that with me on stage every night.
KM: What do you hope people take away from the show?
EB: The courage to love unconditionally and passionately.
KM: Why should theatergoers attend the show?
EB: It is such an epic production. From the set, to the orchestrations, back to the helicopter, it is a true Broadway show. Claude Michel Schönberg and Alain Boubil wrote the most iconic songs for this show that theatergoers will love!
KM: Have you been to the city before? And what are you most excited about doing during your time in New Orleans?
EB: I have never been before, but the food has been amazing! I love that there is music and art everywhere and the people are so kind!
Since seeing the production, I can safely say that though the play itself is not exactly at the top of my personal favorites list, the cast is one of the more talented casts to come through The Saenger in recent seasons. Bautista and the other cast members’ voices all sounded spectacular. There wasn’t a note off or a dance number out of sync. Plus, visually, “Miss Saigon” is a sight to see.
Note: This play is not for children, or the more conservative family member, as there are many adult situations throughout.
And, like me, you may leave wanting to sing “Les Miserable,” as the music and lyrics were created by the same team.