In June 2017, we saw our first show on Broadway, Miss Saigon. The show was a couple months into its Broadway revival engagement after transferring from the West End in London. Going in, we knew nearly nothing about the musical, but coming out, we were thoroughly impressed by its compelling and emotional story and complex characters.
After developing more of an interest in Broadway later that year, we found out we could buy the Blu-Ray of the 25th anniversary performance from its West End revival. We thought that would be a good present for our mom, who saw the show with us, while also being a good gift for ourselves. Since then, we’ve watched the Blu-Ray several times and listened to the revival live recording several times. Knowing this, one could plausibly think we wouldn’t have to see the show again―after all, we own the Blu-Ray and can watch it whenever we want. While that reasoning is absolutely correct, it didn’t stop us from seeing the national tour production of Miss Saigon in Chicago on November 20.
When Emily Bautista was announced to play the lead role of Kim in the national tour, we knew we had to go. She was joining the original Kim, Lea Salonga, and the revival Kim, Eva Noblezada, as Filipinas who have played the iconically heartbreaking role. And, as Filipinos, we just get excited about Filipinos doing anything noteworthy. But for this unwritten tradition to continue is a narrative we couldn’t miss.
Miss Saigon tells the story of 17-year-old recently orphaned Kim in Vietnam. She’s taken in by a man named The Engineer, who runs a brothel that’s popular with U.S. soldiers stationed in Saigon for the Vietnam War. The brothel is the workplace for many women whose lone option for money resides with the manipulative and greedy antics of The Engineer. Many, if not all, of the women desire a life in the U.S. and hope one of the American soldiers who frequent the establishment can help them leave. During Kim’s first night working, American G.I. Chris is immediately captivated by the sight of Kim. Chris literally says, “Jesus…who is she?” They fall in love and make plans for their future, but the fall of Saigon deters their plan.
Before the doors opened at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, we waited at the Starbucks down the street and sat at the window. That turned out to be an ideal place to sit given the fact we were seeing Miss Saigon, because we saw Myra Molloy, the Kim alternate, and fellow Filipino Red Concepcion, The Engineer, walking to the stage door. We were rather awestruck and would have knocked on the window or ran outside if it were appropriate and if we were brave enough to do that.
Once we got inside the theater, we sat in our awesome seats in the second row of the left orchestra, right next to the aisle! Thank you, discount codes! It was amazing to see the show from up close. When we saw it on Broadway, we were in the left mezzanine, so the overall view was good; however, nothing beats being up close―especially during the iconic helicopter scene.
Being so familiar with the show, we inevitably developed expectations, and the national tour production easily lived up to them. We were still invested in the story even though we knew what would happen. That’s how good it was. Emily does a tremendous job as Kim, and we’re so glad we got to see her perform. Anthony Festa does a superb job as Chris, and his version of “Why God Why” has solidified its status as one of our favorite songs from the show. Red does a fantastic job as The Engineer and brings more humor to the role than what we’ve seen before. Christine Bunuan does a great job at offering a different take on Gigi. Also, shoutout to the ensemble, because the ensembles of all shows do so much and are so talented but don’t always get the recognition they deserve. The Miss Saigon ensemble, in particular, performs choreography that goes beyond dance elements. And their emotional execution plays an important role in the show.
A highlight of the show that we didn’t expect was the role of Tam, the lone child in the show. At the performance we went to, Tam was played by Melanie Ramirez, a 5-year-old girl who’s a fellow identical twin. Her sister, Sarah, is another of the children cast to play Tam! When we first heard Miss Saigon would be in Chicago, our excitement for it stemmed from Emily. But once we learned identical twin sisters were cast as Tam, we were thrilled and wanted to see the show for them just as much as we did for Emily. We even bought our tickets based on when one of the twins would be going on as Tam. It brought us so much joy to see Melanie on stage, and we cheered for her during curtain call.
But the best part wasn’t during the show; it was after at the stage door. It was a little hectic but well worth it. We got our Playbills signed by a few of the cast members, including J. Daughtry ( who plays John), Anthony, and Emily. It was actually Emily’s 21st birthday, so we got to greet her and give her presents. We also met her dad, who recognized us from Twitter because Amanda posted a video of Emily at the Broadway in Chicago summer concert.
Our favorite stage door interaction from that night was with Melanie and Sarah. We caught them before they left, introducing ourselves to their mom. We had interacted with their mom through their Instagram account and expressed how excited we were to see them. Melanie signed our Playbills while we asked their mom a few questions about them. Then we gave them presents, which included unicorn beanies (it’s cold in Chicago, and we want them to stay warm!), a pink and purple Chicago souvenir Hello Kitty (Melanie’s favorite color is purple, and Sarah’s is pink), and wooden “S” and “M” letters decorated with shiny unicorn paper.
It was fun to see their interactions with each other, especially as fellow identical twins. We’ve only met one pair of identical twin sisters before this, but since they’re kids, it’s different and interesting to see their relationship. They’re like us but tiny. (No, seriously. We had their same haircut―the typical Asian bowl cut―when we were 5. And we all have October birthdays!) Last, but most definitely not least, we took a picture with them, and it’s pretty much our new favorite picture ever. We can’t help but smile every time we look at it!
If we could afford to see Miss Saigon again, we would. After all, we haven’t seen Sarah as Tam or Myra as Kim, and we just love Emily, so it would be well worth it! It probably won’t happen, but you should go if you get the chance. You won’t want to miss the beautiful music, the powerful story, or The Engineer. (He’s honestly the best character.)