Based loosely on Belasco/Puccini's Madam Butterfly,
Miss Saigon began to form in the minds of composer
Claude-Michel Schönberg and lyricist Alain Boublil when
they saw a photograph of a little Vietnamese girl who was about
to board a plane from Ho Chi Minh City to the United States of
America where her father, an ex-GI she had never seen, was waiting
for her. The child's mother held her hand, knowing she would
never see her daughter again. Schönberg and Boublil found
this mother's silence and her child's tears a powerful condemnation
of all wars which shatter the lives of people who love each other.
The story of Miss Saigon revolves around Kim, a young
Vietnamese woman who is forced to work in a sex shop in Saigon.
She quickly falls in love with Chris, a marine guard at the U.S.
embassy, but when Saigon falls and the old city disappears forever
under the red banners and yellow stars of the Viet Cong, Chris--not
realizing that Kim is pregnant--is forced to retreat. He returns
home and eventually marries, but a few years later, he and his
wife return to find Kim who is now determined to make Chris take
their son back to the United States.
Producer Cameron Mackintosh wisely decided to team Schönberg
and Boublil (the creators of Les Misérables)
with Richard Maltby, Jr., a lyricist known primarily for intimate
character musicals Off-Broadway. The result was an unlikely but
highly successful marriage: the sweep and passion of opera couched
in the grittier musical vernacular of our own time.
Miss Saigon opened at the Drury Lane Theatre in London
on September 20, 1989. The Broadway production featured Lea Salonga
as Kim, Willy Falk as Chris, and Jonathan Pryce as the Engineer,
a cynical Eurasian pimp.
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