Broadway is buzzing with “must-see” shows such as “Waitress,” “Anastasia,” “Kinky Boots” and of course the classics such as “Lion King” and “Wicked.” However, Broadway has more to offer than just the widely-known shows and sometimes it’s the hidden musicals that leave a greater impact. On Sat. Oct. 21, my family and I went to the TKTS — discounted Broadway tickets — in search of seeing “Anastasia.” Of course, by 4 p.m. on the night of the performance, they were sold out. The only available option was to see “Miss Saigon,” which ended up being a blessing in disguise.
“Miss Saigon” takes place toward the beginning of the end of the Vietnam War. Kim (Eva Noblezada) is an orphan, due to the tragic death of her family and community from events during the war. The engineer (Jon Jon Briones) finds the 17-year-old Kim and “saves” her by bringing her to work for him in “Dreamland.” It’s soon uncovered that “Dreamland” is essentially a brothel and because Kim is a virgin, she came at a high price for American marines who would attend the brothel each night, in hopes of getting “drunk, high and laid.” Each night the bar girls put on their sexiest performance in hopes of catching the eye of a marine who might take her with him to the U.S. This beginning, seductive scene was pretty graphic, as the performers danced sexually while only wearing a bra and underwear, and allowed the marines to handle them forcefully. Though some people may see this as vulgar or inappropriate for the stage, it actually captured the desperation of these Vietnam girls during such a difficult point in history. Every girl except for Kim, that is, who instead stood still with a white Vietnamese dress covering her body.
Marine sergeant, Chris, was being pushed by his peer John Thomas to leave with a girl, and ended up buying a room for Chris and Kim. Though hesitant at first, Kim sees something different in Chris than the other marines and escorts him to her room. Chris makes love with Kim, not out of lust, but rather out of love for this girl he just met. During the song “Why God, Why,” Chris shows his true desperation and frustration with meeting Kim, just as he is about to leave Vietnam.
Chris and Kim end up having a makeshift wedding ceremony, which was still beautiful to watch. Kim came in a new white garment and crowned herself with gold. Even though Chris was confused about what to do during the ceremonial prayers and traditions, he expressed his love for Kim all the same. The wedding was abruptly interrupted by Thuy (Devin Ilaw), the lost cousin of Kim, to whom she was betrothed at 13. Kim explained that both of their parents were dead, and thus their wishes die with them. Kim and Chris signed papers, stating that they plan to get married once back in the states. However, when it was time to leave Vietnam, the two lovers were separated in the chaos of evacuation, leaving Chris on the departing helicopter and Kim abandoned.
The stage showed the iron gates separating common Vietnamese people from the U.S. marines. The Vietnamese were anxiously trying to show the marines their papers, trying to get a spot on the departing helicopter. All the while, Chris was trying to climb over from the Marine side so that he could find Kim, but his friend John stopped him. Then, what began as a discrete helicopter noise slowly grew louder until a realistic-looking helicopter lowered itself through and down a ladder for the marines — a true show-stopper. Just as “Phantom of the Opera” will be known for it’s chandelier, “Miss Saigon” is sure to be remembered for it’s impressive helicopter display. It was at this point that the stage erupted into complete chaos. Vietnamese were screaming, crying and trying to desperately climb the fence. It was a scene that echoed the current happenings of refugees trying to enter America. These starving people, with no families and no homes have one goal: to become an American. It gave me goosebumps to see how these actors were able to embody the raw emotions of what it means to be so desperate to leave one’s home country. Throughout this chaos, Chris was looking frantically in the crowd for Kim — but it was too late.
The show skips to three years later, after Vietnam has won. Not contributing anything to the plot of the show, the parade that takes place celebrating Vietnam’s victory cannot be skipped over. The performance of “Morning of the Dragon” pulled out all strong dancers from the ensemble. From gymnastics and acrobatics to prop-work and pirouettes, the ensemble truly puts on a show of celebration and profound talent.
It is also during this song that the engineer has been captured and brought before Thuy, now a commissioner in the new government. Thuy ordered the engineer to find Kim, otherwise he will be executed. Always a character to look out for the benefit of himself, the engineer of course was able to find Kim — now a poor citizen, trying to cope and survive the aftermath of the war. The engineer brings Thuy to Kim, and Thuy demands for Kim to be his wife. Still awaiting the day when Chris comes to save her, Kim expresses to Thuy that she cannot change how she feels. Thuy becomes angered, showing Kim how much power he has by nearly shooting both her and the engineer on the spot. He calls her dumb for not realizing the life she could have with him. It’s at this moment that Kim shows to Thuy the reason as to why she cannot go with him — and a little nugget of a boy (Jace Chen) runs out of a broken down shelter to center stage — it’s Kim’s three-year-old son, a product of her affair with Chris.
Thuy loses all patience with Kim and approaches the little boy. As soon as Thuy pulls a knife from his belt, about to kill Kim’s son, Kim takes out the gun Chris left with her and shoots Thuy in the back — killing him. Needing desperately to flee Vietnam, Kim, her son and the engineer set out on a boat to America in hopes of finding Chris. The engineer is thrilled to hear that Chris and Kim have a child, as this will provide them with the opportunity they need to be accepted into the states; he plans on going in on their journey by saying he is Kim’s brother.
And here is where I will stop. I haven’t even covered one scene from Act II and that is because if I do, I will give away too much information. I haven’t discussed how I was sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting to see how the show would end. I left the theater in tears, watching the beautiful, yet heartbreaking conclusion of the show. “Miss Saigon” is a performance that students should see during their time at Fairfield. Not only does it mirror similar political and cultural happenings of today, but it takes the audience on a rollercoaster ride of laughs, cries, fear, frustration and everything in between. I felt like I made a friend through Kim and her journey became mine. Noblezada is an actress who displays beauty, grace and extreme commitment to her character, making the musical one to remember.