'Miss Saigon' then and now, Rachelle Ann Go on her West End experience
Last month, I was fortunate to have been invited to a STOMP press trip in London. I had never been to the United Kingdom before. Stopovers to Heathrow don’t count as actual visits.
Being the theater junkie that I am, I watched a handful of shows, one almost every night. Roald Dahl’s Matilda featured children who could easily out-sing and dance many adults in the theater!
Queen and Ben Elton’s We Will Rock You featured the best of Queen songs, and it closed the weekend we were in town.
And after interviewing the cast and creator, I got to watch STOMP, and later, I traipsed up and down four floors at the set of Punchdrunk’s interactive theater show, The Drowned Man. I even won the lottery for a front row seat to watch Book of Mormon, by the South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Robert Lopez.
However, the highlight by far of my West End sojourn was watching the revival of Miss Saigon, the story of a complicated love between two people set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War.
During this trip, I also got to see Rachelle, who plays Gigi in the revival of Miss Saigon. She painstakingly asked her stage manager to allow some members of the Philippine press to interview her before one of their rehearsals.
I had gotten my discounted ticket to Miss Saigon in Leicester Square for 30 pounds (about US$51, or P2,234) the very day we arrived, to make sure I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to see it. My dear friend, Ima Castro, who had toured with the production, was also on the same plane to London, and so we had made plans to catch up in the city.
Little did I know that the day we were to meet for coffee would be the day I would get to meet most of the cast members of Miss Saigon as the coffee shop was right next to stage door!
Ima introduced me to her two friends from Saigon whom she had worked with years prior. Miguel Diaz had moved from Tacloban to London for the first production of Miss Saigon in 1989.
Diaz is a character to behold, and he shared how he is the only one in the cast to have been fired twice and hired three times, first for an ensemble/swing, then for the role of Thuy and eventually as the engineer. It’s true what they say about moving up in the theater! It happens to the lucky ones.
I also got to meet Romeo Salazar who was in the previous production with Ima Castro, but was recast at the last minute as the bar owner in the revival.
His return to the West End is nostalgic as his performance at the Prince Edward was where he also performed in Mary Poppins. Now based in Straelen, Germany, he is also fluent in German and ecstatic to be back in London, where it all started for him.
No sooner than we had anticipated, the rest of the cast arrived together with Hugh Maynard, who plays John. He greeted Ima with a big swoop around her waist – a sign of not just their familiarity with each other, but their camaraderie in the theater.
The next day, I caught the Miss Saigon from the balcony and was completely enthralled and enraptured by the production.
Here is the newly released trailer:
I knew all the music but had never seen the production, not in Manila or elsewhere. Apparently there have been some parts that have been reworked. As I sat there knowing each line from each song that Schönberg, Boublil and Maltby created, I was completely mesmerized in the spectacle of it all.
I couldn’t help but feel this overwhelming sense of pride about the Filipino people I knew on the stage.
The new cast recording should be out soon, which they recorded the week I was there, too! Here is a link:
To order the new cast revival soundtrack, check this out.
My favorite parts of the show were definitely the bar scenes that showcased the dancing girls for hire. The heat was definitely on in Saigon because the energy around them was sizzling, and each of them moved with a flair that showed confidence and precision one only gets from months of tireless rehearsals.
When Rachelle Ann Go sang her “Movie in My Mind,” I couldn’t help but think about how underrated she is in Manila. Here on the West End stage, her brilliance was far and above anything she had done here.
Jon Jon Briones, I only had seen in Los Angeles, when he was in The Romance of Magno Rubio at the Ford Theater. His performance as the engineer was a showstopper, and his rendition of “American Dream” was full of gusto and pizzazz.
Of course, I had to take pictures with the cast members at the stage door after, even though my eyes were all swollen from crying buckets during the show.
Miss Saigon is one of those shows you have to watch at least once in your lifetime. It not only showcases some of the most talented Filipinos on the world stage right now – it’s also a touching story of love and loss. The new production stars newcomer Eva Noblezada as Kim and Alistair Brammer as Chris, showing at the Prince Edward Theater. – Rappler.com
Giselle Töngi-Walters is the professional 'slashie.' Besides being mom to Sakura and Kenobi, she is also an all-around media personality. She is a model/product endorser/radio jock/writer/actor for film, TV, theater and producer for second generation Fil-Am content. Being part of the Rappler team is a way for her to utilize her academic and showbiz experience and hopefully make some sense beyond all the chismis.