Epic and Sweeping Production of Miss Saigon at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia

From the moment that an American G.I. named Chris and a young girl named Kim fall in love during the fall of Saigon, we are swept up in their harrowing love story.

From the creators of Les Miserables Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed new production of Boublil and Schonberg’s legendary musical Miss Saigon is having its Philadelphia premiere from March 19-31, and it is a show not to be missed.

With a soaring musical score and an epic love story, the multi-award winning production, which takes place during the end of the Vietnam war/fall of Saigon, is a huge stage spectacle.

In the leading roles are Anthony Festa, who plays Chris, an American G.I. and Emily Bautista, as the leading lady, Kim.

In the last days of the Vietnam War, 17-year-old Kim is forced to work in a Saigon bar run by a notorious character known as the Engineer, flawlessly played by Red Concepcion.

There, Kim meets and falls in love with an American G.I. named Chris, but they are torn apart by the fall of Saigon.

For three years, Kim goes on an epic journey of survival to find her way back to Chris, who has no idea he’s fathered a son.

The chemistry, romance, and beauty in these performances are hard to resist. In fact, it is probably advisable to have a few extra tissues on hand.

Festa has performed in the national tours of Wicked and Finding Neverland, the West End/International/UK Tour of West Side Story (Tony), I Am Harvey Milk and How Deep is the Ocean, and regional theater productions of  Rent, Rock of Ages, Billy Eliot, South Pacific, and Hairspray.

There are 42 members in this touring company, the largest touring cast on the road, in addition to 15 orchestra members who incorporate specialized instruments including Asian flutes & Asian percussion into the magnificent score.

Here is an exclusive interview with leading man Anthony Festa on why he finds Miss Saigon so compelling, working with his leading lady and why Philadelphia audiences will fall in the love for the first time, or all over again, with this show.

What do you love about Miss Saigon?

I truly love the story. I love that it tells a story that needs to be told. There were a lot of soldiers who came back ashamed to be part of this war, and now 30 years later this is shedding light on issues that we went through. The show is a powerful piece of musical theater. I love when I bow I can feel the emotion coming from the audience and that I have allowed them to feel moved and go somewhere else for a moment.

When did this production begin?

It began in New York City in August 2018, and we rehearsed for five weeks with Cameron Mackintosh, so it came from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. These are the same guys who put it together 30 years ago and they created the version of this tour. Our first performance was in Providence, Rhode Island, in September.

How is it different every night?

It is definitely not the same show night after night. On television, there is a lot of waiting and a whole bunch of hurry up. But, the greatest stage actors, the Tony Award winners, are the ones who can deliver the emotion every night. I connect it to my day-to-day life and I use it on the stage. I cannot be a robot saying the same thing every night. So, there are different aspects of the story to hang the emotion on to every night.

Why do you feel the show is timeless?

I feel that way because Miss Saigon deals with so many issues that are relevant today, just the topic of race alone is something that is easy to examine today. Solider like me dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and the high suicide rates that returning soldiers face, all of this it correlates and resonates on so many different levels today.

Tell me about the chemistry between you and Emily, your leading lady.

This strong emotion and strong love came to us pretty quickly; right out of the gate. Emily and I were thrust into this very fast. We said hello the first day of rehearsal and seconds later we were singing together. Our voices complement each other, and it has been wonderful to grow and learn what that love is like that for us each night that we become Kim and Chris.

Have you spent much time in Philadelphia?

No, I really haven’t but I am looking forward to seeing the sights and getting some food recommendations.

How long are you with the tour of Miss Saigon?

At least for a year.

Have your family and friends seen you in this production?

My mom came when we started the tour in Providence. My sister and brother-in-law came to see the show in Charlotte, so that was nice. I come from a close-knit Italian family and we are always there for one another. I have several friends from New York, and casting directors and producers, coming to see the show in Philadelphia since it is just a train ride away.

What is the message of the show?

I think the main message of the show is that love conquers all and love conquers all hate.

Talk about the social aspect of a tour like this.

I have made many close friends. I would say that in all of the jobs I have had, and this is my fourth tour, that I definitely stay in touch with people even after the show is done. We care for each other a lot, and every tour is its own kind of family.

Talk about Miss Saigon in terms of fairy tales and love stories.

I think to some extent we want our own Leonardo DiCaprio to come and rescue us as he did in The Titanic. So, the cool part of Miss Saigon and a lot of struggle has to do with the sacrifice and how deep the bonds of motherhood go. The child in the show is born out of love. Kim tells her son, ‘you were made in war and destruction but you were made out of love.’

What does the music mean to you?

Every night the incredible music still moves me. The music is its own character. If you listen to it, hear it and watch, you will see it is pretty incredible.

If you have already seen Miss Saigon why should you return?

We have a very young and fresh cast with a whole new take on this production. The creative team from 30 years ago has added new lyrics and rewrote the endings to some of the songs. I believe the show flows better than it has before. Under Laurence Conner’s direction, the text feels more alive.

For those who have never seen it, why should they attend the show?

If you have never seen Miss Saigon then you have to come. We impact all different generations. The crowd that loves the original and the new crowd. You can feel something for an event that you may not know about. History books don’t tell this story but we do. This show awakens some emotions that you didn’t know that you had.

 

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