Updated, tighter ‘Miss Saigon’ brings the heat to Manila once again


Nearly 25 years after Miss Saigon first came to Manila, the hit musical that paved the way for Lea Salonga and other Filipino performers to conquer the international stage has returned for a limited run to jumpstart an Asian tour. It plays until 12 May at The Theater at Solaire in Parañaque City.

This restaging of Cameron Mackintosh’s production of the Claude-Michel Schönberg (music) and Alain Boublil (original French lyrics) collaboration stars Filipino-Australians Abigail Adriano as Kim and Seann Miley Moore as the Engineer. They reprise their roles from the 2023 Australian run of the production, where they first made waves.

Sharing the stage with Adriano and Moore are major players Nigel Huckle (as Chris), Sarah Morrison (as Ellen), Lewis Francis (as John) and Laurence Mossman (as Thuy). They are joined in the Manila run with homegrown talent Kiara Dario and the rest of the company of 42 performers.

Adriano and Moore’s performances complement how Miss Saigon has been updated over the years since its West End debut in 1989, with Salonga as Kim and British star Jonathan Price as the Engineer. But while Adriano’s Kim is subtly feistier yet still sweet and innocent, Moore’s the Engineer is a total makeover that he’s now referred to as the “EnginQueer.”

Moore, who identifies as genderqueer, brings a whole new characterization of a bar owner in Saigon desperate to make his American dream come true during the waning years of the Vietnam war. He’s also responsible for the story’s protagonists Kim, a newbie in the trade, and Chris, an American soldier, to meet and become a couple.

He creates this shrewd, funny and at times sympathetic character with his impressive vocal quality and range (also check out his stint as a contestant in X Factor UK and The Voice Australia) in tandem with his seemingly boundless energy on stage. He even risks stepping out of character by blurting out some Tagalog lines, but the audience laps it up.

Adriano, on the other hand, succeeds more in her quiet, defiant and introspective scenes as Kim. Her rendition of “I’d Give Me Life for You,” as she cradles her son Tam in her arms, is so heartfelt and heart-wrenching that feels like hearing it for the first time. She also makes her other songs, particularly the duets with Chris, such as “Sun and Moon” and “Last Night of The World,” sound fresh while staying true to the standards set by Salonga.

Aside from the update in the new production, its current director, Laurence Connor, deserves kudos for making the show tighter and, thus the scenes turning out more riveting. This is particularly evident in the part leading to the Fall of Saigon, in which Kim and Chris are trying to reach each other but to no avail, until the chopper descends to fetch Chris and the remaining American soldiers.

Connor also tries to downplay the story’s tragic ending that harks back to Puccini’s 1904 opera, Madame Butterfly, so as not to highlight the female lead’s way of resolving a conflict. This looks rushed on stage, but at the least the audience’s attention can quickly shift back to the best parts of the show as the company takes a bow and receives applause for the dazzling production numbers and outstanding performances.