Backstage With ‘Miss Saigon’

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(Host) A local production of the Broadway favorite "Miss Saigon" is being performed at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland Friday and Saturday.

VPR’s Nina Keck went "backstage" at a recent rehearsal and has this preview.

(Keck) The musical Miss Saigon has it all – exotic settings, lush music, love, heartbreak and war.

(Rip Jackson) "It’s a tragic story. It’s a story of sacrifice and a mother’s love for her son."

(Keck) Director Rip Jackson is minister of music at Rutland’s Grace Congregational Church.

(Jackson) "Of all the musicals I’ve produced, Miss Saigon moves me more than any of them. They really do a great job of developing the characters so you can really empathize with the story. It’s a very heartbreaking story and the music is gorgeous."

(Keck) Composers Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil wrote the music for Miss SaigonThe story is based on Puccini’s classic opera Madam Butterfly – about a doomed romance between a Japanese girl and an American soldier. But while Puccini version is set in the 19th century, Miss Saigon uses the Vietnam War for a backdrop – with an American GI falling for a 17-year old Vietnamese girl named Kim.

(Jackson) "Her village has been bombed and her parents are killed right in front of her and so she was forced to go into Saigon and she had to work at a bar that is basically a prostitution bar. On her first night, she meets this American soldier, they fall in love and they get married in Saigon."

(Keck) Seventeen-year-old Natalie Brierre plays Kim.

(Brierre) "I learned a lot through Kim, really. I learned a lot about the Vietnam War and what people have to go through and sacrifice and what people will do to help others throughout these horrible times."

(Keck) Kim’s love story takes a tragic turn when she becomes pregnant just as the Americans are pulling out of Vietnam. As director Rip Jackson explains, Kim’s soldier-husband doesn’t know about the child.

(Jackson) "When the Americans pull out of Saigon, he’s forced to leave and they get separated and they can’t find each other. He tries for years to find her and he finally moves on with his life and gets remarried to an American woman."

(Keck) Thousands of half-Vietnamese, half-American children were born during the war. Cast members Jamie Willis and Natalie Brierre say "Miss Saigon" tackles the issue with songs like Bui Doi – which is sung by American soldiers after returning home.

(Willis) "Bui Doi is the name of the children who are born half-American and half-Vietnamese."

(Brierre) "Bui Doi actually means dust of life or less than dust of life because these children are treated horribly. There’s really less than the dust of life. It’s sad."

(Willis) "This is just showing one of the small, huge effects of what the war did to not only us, but the Vietnamese."

(Keck) While Willis says the musical packs a powerful message about the effects of war, he says it also shows the amazing strength of the human spirit.

For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.

(Host) Miss Saigon will be performed Friday and Saturday at Rutland’s Paramount Theatre.

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