Couple in love during hated war makes for epic stage show
"Miss Saigon" kicks off the Broadway in Portland season, Nov. 5-10, with young Emily Bautista proudly playing the female lead role.
Patterned after the Puccini opera "Madama Butterfly," it tells the story of a young Vietnamese woman named Kim, who is orphaned by war and forced to work in a bar run by a notorious character known as the Engineer.
She meets and falls in love with an American GI named Chris, but they are torn apart by the fall of Saigon. For three years, Kim goes on an epic journey of survival to find her way back to Chris, who has no idea that he had fathered a son.
It's a popular love story, and Bautista, a Filipino American, grew up listening to the CD of the music, which includes "The Heat is On in Saigon," "The Movie in My Mind," "Last Night of the World" and "American Dream."
"This is such a big show in the Filipino community," said Bautista, who is a 20-something from Connecticut who began playing the role of Kim about a year ago. "I first saw it at age 13. It was so mind-blowing to me."
She was an understudy in the role before landing the touring spot, and she also played in "Les Miserables" as Eponine.
"I love how strong Kim is, her passion and her strength," Bautista said, "and the messages we tell throughout the story."
Red Concepcion plays the Engineer. Anthony Festa plays Chris.
"It's been a dream to work with (Festa), we're such good friends," Bautista said. "We have such a good relationship out of work, it really helps on stage. He's someone I trust and fully commit to when with him."
The show coming to Portland is a Cameron Mackinstosh revival of the Boublil and Schonberg musical.
"It's hard to believe that it has been over 28 years since 'Miss Saigon' first opened in North America, but, if anything, the tragic love story at the heart of the show has become even more relevant today with innocent people being torn apart by war all over the world," Mackintosh said.
It's been staged in 32 countries.
"There's such a strong fan base for it," Bautista said. "There are a lot of younger kids attending, whose parents had seen the show. Over the last year I've gotten to meet children of the Vietnam War and children whose parents were GIs or nurses, or they fled Vietnam. Those stories remind me of why we're telling the story."
"Miss Saigon" opens another season of Broadway in Portland.
Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, Nov. 5-8, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10. For tickets: www.BroadwayInPortland.com.
The remaining Broadway In Portland shows are:
"Fiddler on the Roof," Jan. 7-12; "Dear Evan Hansen," Jan. 28-Feb. 8; Disney's "Frozen," March 5-22; "Anastasia," June 23-28; "Mean Girls," Aug. 18-23; "The Book of Mormon," May 12-17 (season option).
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