By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City- When Chris (Alistair Brammer) opens the song Last Night of the World in a duet with Kim (Eva Noblezada) to profess their love in war-torn Saigon, I silently sing with them on my seat.
Our song played on a solo saxophone
A crazy sound a lonely sound
A cry that tells us love goes on and on…
This song is perhaps the most loved and remembered in Miss Saigon, a revival of the 1991 musical which is now back on Broadway Theater since March 1, 2017. The new Cameron Mackintosh production is directed by Laurence Connor.
The Last Night of the World has remained entrenched in my memory with its universal message of love in the time of war.
But the tragedy of Kim, a prostituted woman committing suicide and giving up her son to Chris and his wife Ellen, may not be well-appreciated by an audience whose consciousness for women’s rights may have grown through the decades.
My crazy wish is for the rethinking of Kim, of making her to decide against suicide and instead live a new life in the US or anywhere else and raise her son as a single mom.
Playwright and musician Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyricist Alain Boublil may consider to do that. Most likely, the story will be loved by women all over the world, that Kim picks herself up and fights well in life. Just saying. I couldn’t wrap my head on the tragedy of suicide.
Kim to me had a character flaw. Her decision to end her life and leave her son to Chris is unconvincing. The mindset of a woman attuned to daily struggles is to rise and fight and not kill herself, especially when she has a small child.
I am pointing at the flow of thought of writers Schonberg and Boublil who I think were too enamored at the beauty of the tragedy of unrequited love set in the war in Vietnam.
While prostitution and poverty are real, suicide is not the one usual thing for Asian women to do. Usually, they face their battles either silently or outrageously. But they do take up the challenge.
The Engineer in fact sings it so grandiosely, people would rather fulfill the “American Dream” right after surviving a devastating war.
Despite a wide range of issues, from presenting a humiliating view of weak women to the casting of white-nonetheless-superb actor Jonathan Pryce as The Engineer in the original play, Miss Saigon proved to be a Broadway and West End success because of its unforgettable songs and theatrical magnificence.
The helicopter scene will remain its biggest prop spectacle, just like the falling chandelier of The Phantom of the Opera.
Filipino actor Jon Jon Briones as The Engineer is impactful and funny. His portrayal of a wily schemy pimp comes out more comical than a detestable agent of prostitution.
Eva Noblezada is true to form and character of Kim, sweet and tender, she has delivered what’s expected of her as a young helpless victim of sex trade. Her voice however has sometimes drowned in the powerful orchestra under the baton of conductor James Moore.
Gigi, the lead bar girl, the original Miss Saigon on Dreamland, is excellently portrayed by Rachelle Ann Go. Her lewd dancing and singing showed the strength of character and desperation of a prostituted woman.
In Gigi, whatever may have happened to her in coming to America, may emerge a vindication of a prostituted woman who could save herself. That would be the movie in my mind. (Featured photo from google.com)