In this exclusive interview, LIFESTYLE.INQ talks to the cast and crew of Miss Saigon about everything from what makes the production so iconic, to the experience of introducing the play to a new generation of audiences
Since its debut in London back in 1989, Miss Saigon has etched its name in the theater world as one of the most iconic musicals of all time. With its unforgettable soundtrack, heartbreakingly raw storyline, and timeless theme of love amidst war, the production has managed to continuously captivate audiences of various ages from across the world.
Set against the backdrop of Saigon during the tail-end of the Vietnam War, Miss Saigon is centered around the love story of Chris (Nigel Huckle), an American GI, and Kim (Abigail Adriano), a young Vietnamese orphan working as a bar-girl. Grappling the realities of war and the necessities of survival, Miss Saigon is a story that champions the female narrative of resilience whilst capturing the innocence of unconditional love.
Nearly three years since its last live production, Miss Saigon has officially made its return to the stage with a glittering new roster of talents to spearhead the show. Kicking off its revival down under, the production began its Australian tour at the Sydney Opera House just last August 25 before it made its way to Melbourne on November 3, with shows in Adelaide in January to follow.
Fortunately, LIFESTYLE.INQ had the immense privilege of experiencing Miss Saigon live during its opening night, and even had the opportunity to speak with the production’s very own Abigail Adriano, Seann Miley Moore, Nigel Huckle, and Will Barker to boot.
In this exclusive interview, the cast and crew talk about everything from the importance of representation, to their pre-show rituals, and what exactly makes this show such a special production.
Abigail Adriano: Kim
Kim is an iconic character within the realm of theatre. Could you share a bit about how you prepared for the role?
Kim is such an iconic character in theater and I’ve always felt drawn to her. Before I was cast in the role, I was always singing her songs from the score. I think it’s possible to step into her shoes because of the sheer importance of the story and the strength of her heart that I aim to honour and portray every night.
Understanding that her story is a universal ode to all those who have, and are currently surviving war, makes this more than just a fictional play, but a reality that I feel responsible to tell sensitively and honestly. And thanks to an incredible creative and music team, I’ve been able to nurture her internal world and life beyond the notes and words in the book.
How do you think your Filipino heritage helped you understand the character of Kim more? Did you find yourself looking through previous actors’ work who have portrayed Kim in the past before?
My fellow Filipino titas and mothers helped me understand that Kim is fierce and the writer of her own destiny. I continue to feel the Filipino pride that is embedded in the roots of Miss Saigon, even 30 years since Lea Salonga pioneered the role. Gosh, you should see the incredible crowd of Filipinos at stage door after the show! It’s a huge and wonderfully supportive community. Coming from a big Filipino family who love music, it was impossible not to be introduced to clips of previous Kims.
I think seeing the different clips at a young age helped me realize how each Kim can make the role their own, and that is something that inspired me while playing the role. Simply finding myself, my strengths and my nuances that make it true to my own interpretation of Kim.
How does Miss Saigon continue to stay relevant and appeal to modern theatergoers while honoring its rich history? (Especially in a multicultural city like Melbourne)
Miss Saigon is a story that is so important and relevant in a richly multicultural city like Melbourne. It reflects so much of the effects of war and the survival of migrant families through the Vietnam war and the conflict between two culturally different worlds. The show enables us to start conversations and humanize the experience of individuals like Kim, hopefully, to learn and transcend from the suffering that we continue to see around the world today.
Are there any behind-the-scenes stories or anecdotes from the cast and crew that you can share?
The cast is like family because of the stories we’ve shared, especially with most of us coming from migrant families-this story brings us together. Despite what you see on stage, I think we are a bubbly and silly cast behind the curtain; you can find us making silly remixed music and Kimberely Hodgson (literally) always making us laugh.
What makes Miss Saigon such a timeless story?
It’s an unbeatable musical score, with ICONIC characters and heartbreaking love story that leaves you thinking about it for months.
Seann Miley Moore: The Engineer
Miss Saigon is a production of legend status. Now Cameron Mackintosh is introducing the story to a new city and a new generation. What can the audience expect from this experience?
YOU ARE CORRECT. THIS PRODUCTION IS LEGENDARY. PERIOD. This new generation we are living in a time of BIG SLAYZIAN ENERGY. Crazy Rich Asians, BlackPink, Michelle Yeoh being are the first Asian woman to win an Oscar. This is our time for Asian stories to take these mainstages and iconic stages i.e., Sydney Opera House. Our full Australasian cast are bringing all this PRIDE to the stage and that’s what you can expect. Power, Ferocity & Electric Energy – We are bringing all our stories to the stage – Channelling all our ancestry and feeling proud and unapologetic doing it.
This show is a family. The bond is brilliant. We are Strong, Sassy, Sexy and Serving ALL OF IT. and from the words of The Engineer “Its Showtime…”
The character of “The Engineer” has definitely evolved and grown since it first appeared on stage. How would you say you shaped the character to make it more your own? What were some of your influences?
The role is now ’The Engin-QUEER’ and there is no going back! My ONLY influences were ME & the words & the music of Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil. It’s a match made in heaven. I am bringing everything that is Seann Miley Moore and marrying everything that is Miss Saigon. Epic, Fierce, Sexy, Camp and oh sooo Cheeky. meow. Listen to my final number ‘The American Dream – Ultimate Showgirl – Cabaret and what a tune it is!
What has been the most rewarding aspect of bringing Miss Saigon to Melbourne?
With a stellar run at the iconic Sydney Opera House- We had to come to Melbourne – and playing in the heart of ASIA town it means the absolute world.
Seriously it is the best musical production in Australia, no faff no novelty stories – it’s pure Golden Age musical theatre and it is expensive! and that’s what we want!
Emotional, Dramatic, A Love story of the Ages and an epic score. Divine.
Can you tell us about your fellow cast members? What was the rehearsal process for you all to bring the characters to life?
As mentioned above, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if it wasn’t for the fierce cast we have. All Aussie, New Zealand, Australasian cast! No imports honey! And that’s our talent! There is a reason audiences are left moved to tears, feeling fabulous, feeling powerful because we ARE GIVING ALL OF US on that stage. No crumbs left!
Jean Pierre Van Der Spuy (Australian Production Director) and the creatives really let all of us bring ourselves to the piece, our stories, our being and that is a beautiful thing. What we are doing is pioneering a new age that is MISS SAIGON – nothing submissive only BIG SLAYZIAN ENERGY.
Especially with my role ’The Engineer’ or how I’d like to say ’The Engin-Queer’ it has never been done this way before as Cameron Mackintosh says “It’s a complete revelation”.
Super proud to be up there bringing all that is Seann Miley Moore to this role and to the stage. SMM X MISS SAIGON – It’s a match made heaven.
Nigel Huckle: Chris
Could you tell our readers about the character you portray? What do you think Chris represents and how do you think his character reflects men in today’s society?
Chris is an American GI stationed at the US Embassy in Saigon at the tail end of the Vietnam War, thoroughly disillusioned and desperate to figure out why the universe has put him there and what good the American presence has brought to Vietnam. I think Chris represents the confusion of the American side of the War in that they were supposed to be doing good by coming to the aid of their South Vietnamese friends, embodied by his discovery of and sudden world-encompassing love and care for Kim; but in the end, the Americans made a mess of South Vietnam, which we see in Chris and Kim’s anguished separation during the Fall of Saigon.
I think Chris’ character brings a lot of modern relevance to men’s mental health, especially veterans’ mental health, as we see multiple depictions of his struggle with PTSD. The ability of men to communicate and open up their feelings and thoughts to loved ones and to each other is something that has come an incredibly long way since the days of the Vietnam War. But we know that war veterans from multiple generations are still struggling immensely, and the dialogue needs to continue.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of bringing Miss Saigon to Melbourne?
What has struck me the most is just how moved people have been by our show. The amount of people who speak to me at stage door to tell me that this is their second or third time coming back is astounding. It’s not every show in your career that you get to do something that audiences enjoy as much as Miss Saigon. It’s also such a thrill bringing this incredible music to our audiences, with breathtaking vocal performances from our castmates supported by a massive and lush orchestra. It is once-in-a-lifetime that all of these things come together that we get to deliver live on stage eight times a week.
Can you run us through a day in the life behind the scenes of Miss Saigon?
Well, personally, in the hours of the day before I get to the theatre, I almost always get my big workout in. Then I really like to treat myself nicely during the day whether that’s brunch somewhere or just a coffee and an almond croissant at a bakery, something very lowkey so I’m not exerting myself. Then when I get to the theatre, at the one-hour call we have a group physical and vocal warmup to make sure we’re all collectively ready for the show. We circle up afterwards to come together as a group and acknowledge our team effort one last time before the show starts. Then I go to my dressing room and turn on some music while I cover my tattoos. (Everyone always asks why I have to cover them, and I always point out that I don’t think Chris would have been as much of a Les Misérables fan as I am with “And rain will make the flowers grow” tattooed on my inner bicep.) Then, I put on my makeup, the mic technician comes and puts my microphone on me, I do a few final vocal warmups and exercises, and then we go out and start the show.
The backstage traffic is highly choreographed. I have some time offstage from the middle to the end of Act 1 where I relax, maybe have a bit of candy, and then come on to the do Act 1 finale. Intermission is about the same on the relaxation scale. And then Act 2 I’m fairly busy after “Bui-doi”. After the show finishes, I take off my tattoo cover and my makeup, I wash my brushes, and then before I leave I like to run my hands over my costumes and say “thank you” and “good night” to Chris.
When I get home, I wind down with a bit of a snack platter–cheese, dips, salami, chocolate–and then it’s bedtime.
Among all the characters in Miss Saigon: Who would you trust with your deepest, darkest secret?
I know it seems cliche, but I know I could trust Kim with a secret. She doesn’t judge and she doesn’t know how to betray people. She only knows nurturing and protection. She would rather die than sacrifice a loved one’s happiness.
Will Barker: Deputy Stage Manager
Could you share what you think makes this production of Miss Saigon so special?
While all productions of this work are amazing, this one is special to us as it has an amazing, young, Australasian cast who bring a sharp and fresh perspective to the show each performance. Their commitment to the story really lifts the show’s emotional impact.
How would you describe your experience working with this particular group of creatives?
It was a wonderful experience. The creatives were very open and giving to all members of the team making the group feel really connected. Of course, the fact that they have been doing it all over the world and in some cases for decades is really inspiring. Despite having done many productions they really fostered the performers in this production and allowed them to bring some of themselves into the roles, and the results are so exciting!
Do you have a pre-show ritual? If so, what is it and how did it start?
After the cast complete their warmups, we have a circle, where we connect, encourage and become a Team before the show starts. It’s special to be part of this, I need to be really connected to what the performers are doing in the show. Other than this, my ritual would be checking my calling console is all working, and I run through the top of the show before the rest of the crew join to get things started.