Miss Saigon Essays Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Vietnam, Press, Veterans, Asia, Cast, Union, Survival, American Dream

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2020/09/09

In the early 1960’s and 1970’s you must have seen musical films like the Sound of Music, Oliver, My Fair Lady and many more. All of these films were portrayed by Caucasians. Operas featured only a single ethnicity in casting for the actors, actresses and supporting casts. Today I would like to write about a musical play that originally was shown in London. Its first show was held in the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, on 20 September 1989 up to 30 October 1999 before it started making their tour and performances in other countries. Miss Saigon is produced by Cameron Mackintosh. The lyrics of the song was written by Alain Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr. Music was composed by Claude-Michel Schonberg. The story was written by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil. The musical play is an adaptation of Madame Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini of which the heroine is a Japanese while in Miss Saigon, the heroine is a seventeen year old Vietnamese girl . The setting of the story is in Saigon around April 1975, before the Vietnam war ended. The original female lead role was Lea Salonga from the Philippines and the original leading male role was done by Jonathan Pryce.
This musical play was timely in relation to the Vietnam war. This is a cross-cultural and multicultural musical play because the lead female actress is an Asian along with the engineer and dancers but the rest of the cast are Caucasians. The story is about the American Dream. The ravages of war brought Saigon to rubbles. Vietnam is an agricultural country. The farms were mostly destroyed and nobody was farming because of war. Children go hungry. Survival was priority in the daily activities. With lots of American soldiers around waiting to be brought back to the United States, clubs and bars were the thriving business. Young girls work in bars and night clubs to support their families. In April 1975, the U.S. Marines were celebrating and waiting to be brought back home. The soldiers celebrated by going to the night clubs and bars. In one of the night clubs, there was a girl who was a neophyte, a virgin and never have slept with any man nor have worked in the bar. Her name was Kim. Chris was one of the soldiers. He was not enjoying the sexy prostitute young Vietnamese girls in the bar. All of the girls were competing to be the “Miss Saigon” of the night. The winner will be paired to the American soldier. To the young prostitute, it was her chance to be brought to the United States, which was her American dream for a better life and never to go hungry again. John, a friend of Chris saw the discontentment. So, he paid a room for Chris and the young virgin Kim to be with him. Chris was emotionally moved when Kim told him that she was an orphan. While being together, Chris developed a liking for Kim and later on they both fell in love. Chris asked Kim to live with him and stop working in the club. After a few months, the American soldiers were called back by their embassy to go home. The union of Kim and Chris became short-lived. Chris promised Kim to bring her to the United States. Chris hurried back to the camp where the helicopters were waiting for all of the soldiers. As Kim approached the gate, it was at that moment that the gates were closed. The order was not to allow any Vietnamese to come in and fly with the soldiers. Thus, Kim was left in Saigon. She lived daily with the hope that one day Chris will come to get her. Kim became pregnant of Chris’child. Three years had passed. Kim never lost hope that she will be reunited with her lover. In the span of three years, Chris met Ellen and married her. In the mean time John who was Chris’ friend was working in an organization trying to connect the children to their fathers, who were American soldiers. John informed Chris that Kim was still alive and living in Bangkok as a dancer. Chris was also informed that he had a son with Kim named Tam. Chris informed Ellen about Kim and persuaded her to come with him to Bangkok. Kim was overjoyed knowing that Chris was coming to Bangkok to see her. Kim told her son, Tam to be happy now since he has now a father and will take him to the United States to live with him. Kim met Ellen in the hotel while waiting for Chris. So, she knew now that Chris was already married. However, her utmost concern was to have Chris take her son with him to the United States. Ellen, did not agree on this matter. However, Chris assured Ellen of his love. Many events transpired along the way. Kim was hiding in a remote and impoverished area. She was now found by her cousin who was betrothed to her while she was thirteen. Kim told his cousin that the agreement was nullified since her parents are all dead. Kim at this point is having mixed feelings. She is happy that Tam, her son, finally meets his dad. She is now assured that her son’s future will be safe. On the contrary, she was not willing to be married to her cousin. With Chris now married to Ellen, there was no way for her to get back to Chris. With Ellen, Chris and John in her presence, she chose to end her life and shot herself. Everybody ran to her when they heard the shot. Chris took Kim into his arms and Kim asked Chris to say the words that he first uttered to her when they fell in love. After those last words, Kim stopped breathing and died in the arms of Chris.
The focus on the hyper-sexiness of the dancers and prostitutes in their bikinis in this dramatic play was redirected by the tragic death of Kim. It rekindles the story of Romeo and Juliet but this time east meeting west. The used of the female body was intended for survival. Survival meant moving to a foreign land and living the American dream. The physical appearance of the bar girls in their scanty clothing and gestures to attract men, had deeper meaning and emotional hang ups. Survival did not only mean living for oneself. It meant financially supporting the whole family so that there will be food on the table. Young girls working in the night clubs means a chance for a better life when she is able to catch an American soldier to fulfill her American Dream. The story becomes emotionally touching because it is about philial (love for parents )and Eros love (intimate ) with self sacrifice. With self sacrifice, can we now judge the prostitutes of this time? War destroys not only the land. The unseen destruction is the psychological effect among families separated by death in war. Americian children (of Asian and American parents) become orphans. Vietnam has rich and fertile soil but the irony is that people go hungry which makes way for prostitution to thrive. The American dream becomes the ultimate desire.
In 1990, Miss Saigon was questioned and protested for “yellow-face impersonation. Hwang, the author of Madame Butterfly, was the first to protest. He argued, “America must not restrict its “ethnic” writers to ethnic material, while assuming that white males can master any topic they so desire. Thus, Jonathan Pryce was cast as the Eurasian pimp. No Asian actor was now painted in white to depict a Eurasian. Like Madame Butterfly, Miss Saigon created a new form of musical
theme in theatrical productions. It now caters to both the East and the West culture. The appeal is universal. Love is universal. The writer, composer and lyricist want the audience to see, hear and imagine that there is union and beauty even in the contrasting situations of love and war. Philial and Eros love is intrinsic for man’s existence, in like manner, survival drives a person to go beyond his moral values and inclination. In this aspect, one does not perceive Miss Saigon as discrimination of a certain ethnicity but rather, the acceptance of who we are regardless of culture and political belief. This has opened the minds of its audience towards the greater picture of humanity. It has institutionalized racism in America and created a new genre in the entertainment industry which is multiculturalism and is now highly accepted.
Miss Saigon is produced with a more expensive and highly sophisticated technology. Forbes ASAP magazine wrote about it and stated, “biggest techno theatrical production in the musical history of Broadway”. It has huge sets, spectacular lighting effects, pop-rock music with great orchestration. The lighting cues were “locked down” and recorded on computers so that it will not change regardless of the number of performances. The production uses 59 computers for its automated effects and uses a full-sized 1959 Cadillac in one of the scenes.
The biggest surprise was the use of the helicopter with its roaring sound on the stage which made this theatrical play the most controversial in the West End.
People have seen the effects of war just like in Iraq and Afghanistan. The audience can now relate to the scenes unlike 25 years ago when it first opened. A new genre has evolved in the film industry. Racism is now taken more constructively. It is meant not to repeat the mistakes of the past but learning and embracing new culture to provide better understanding in humanity. The effect of digitalization and globalization in the music industry made it possible for many viewers like me to understand and appreciate our demographical differences. I have been reading about Miss Saigon in its earlier productions. However, television shows made it more evident for people to appreciate culture. Politically, Vietnam was previously divided between North and the South due to communism. Today, their country has economically grown and learned from the destructions of the past.
Miss Saigon has celebrated its 25th anniversary with the appearance Jonathan Pryce and Lea Salonga. Both belonged to the original cast of Miss Saigon which earned them the Laurence Olivier Award in 1989. With its reopening this year in the Prince Edward Theatre in London, tickets were all sold out for the January 02, 2015 opening. This is a clear manifestation of acceptance.

Footnotes

1. Richard Chigley Lynch, ed.,Broadway, Movie, TV, and Studio Cast Musicals on Record: A Discography of Recordings, 1985-1995 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996), 105, https://www.questia.com/read/58985700.}
2. Esther S. Kim, "(1957–)," in Asian American Playwrights: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, ed. Miles Xian Liu (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002), 129, https://www.questia.com/read/101664365.
3. Charlie Patton, "Technology Meets Theater in 'Miss Saigon' Helicopter Just One 'Spectacular' Feat,"The Florida Times Union, March 26, 2000, https://www.questia.com/read/1G1-60837282
4. Stacy Wolf, Changed for Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 136, https://www.questia.com/read/121370953.
5. Charlie Patton,"Technology Meets Theater in 'Miss Saigon' Helicopter Just One 'Spectacular' Feat,"The Florida Times Union, March 26, 2000,
https://www.questia.com/read/1G1-60837282.

Bibliography

Conrich, Ian, and Estella Tincknell, eds. Film's Musical Moments. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006. https://www.questia.com/read/117934281/film-s-musical-moments.
Decker, Todd. Show Boat: Performing Race in an American Musical. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. https://www.questia.com/read/121350624/show-boat.
Kim, Esther S. "(1957–)." In Asian American Playwrights: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, edited by Miles Xian Liu, 126-37. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002. https://www.questia.com/read/101664504/asian-american-playwrights-a-bio-bibliographical-critical.
Liu, Miles Xian, ed. Asian American Playwrights: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002. https://www.questia.com/read/101664367/asian-american-playwrights-a-bio-bibliographical-critical.
Lynch, Richard Chigley, ed. Broadway, Movie, TV, and Studio Cast Musicals on Record: A Discography of Recordings, 1985-1995. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996. https://www.questia.com/read/58985700/broadway-movie-tv-and-studio-cast-musicals-on-record.
Moon, Krystyn R. Yellowface: Creating the Chinese in American Popular Music and Performance, 1850s-1920s. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005. https://www.questia.com/read/119562830/yellowface.
on' Helicopter Just One 'Spectacular' Feat." The Florida Times Union, March 26, 2000. https://www.questia.com/read/1G1-60837282/technology-meets-theater-in-miss-saigon-helicopter.
Wolf, Stacy. Changed for Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. https://www.questia.com/read/121370953/changed-for-good.
———. Changed for Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. https://www.questia.com/read/121371098/changed-for-good-a-feminist-history-of-the-broadway.

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