July 4, 2012
Rainne Mendoza Celespara
Houston Generation X Examiner
It’s been 23 years now since the critically acclaimed musical about the Vietnam War in the 70’s debuted at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London. Two years later, it premiered on Broadway, receiving both critical acclaim and commercial success, and has since become one of the longest running Broadway musicals in history.
Miss Saigon, another brilliant collaboration of producer Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyricist Alain Boublil following the success of their 1985 hit musical Les Miserables, surprised the theater world with its poignant depiction of life in war-torn Vietnam as both locals and the young American soldiers deployed in Saigon got caught in the web of uncertainties brought about by combat in their struggles to survive.
Although the plot of Miss Saigon revolved around the love story of American GI Chris and his brief “marriage” to a bar girl named Kim whom he had to eventually leave when the Americans were forced to retreat from Saigon, the musical is generally a tale of passion, disillusionment, deceit, despair and ultimately, love and sacrifice between two different worlds held captive by the futility of war.
Lea Salonga, the newly discovered phenomenal voice from the Philippines back then, the production’s supposed last stop for casting, stunned the world with her depiction of the musical’s lead character Kim. Her vocal range and delivery were perfect in giving life to Kim’s youthful vibrancy, innocence, anguish, inner strength and resolve.
Lea eventually became one of the biggest stars in theater having won numerous awards including the Laurence Olivier, Tony, Theater World, Drama Desk and Outer Critics awards for her role as Kim. She was then cast for the lead roles in Les Miserables on Broadway such as Eponine’s and Fantine’s and was the first Asian to have done so. She also worked with Disney as the singing voice for Princess Jasmine of the movie Aladdin and Fa Mulan of the movie Mulan.
According to news reports, producer Cameron Macintosh has been working with producer Paula Wagner since 2009 regarding the upcoming film adaptation of Miss Saigon with Academy award winner Lee Daniels as its potential director.
Consequently, the buzz on who would be playing Kim in the musical’s film adaptation had been going on since 2009.
Last year, rumors about international pop star Charice being groomed for the role of 17-year old Kim made the rounds in media circles. Other names also sprung up including those of American Idol contestant Thia Megia and Disney star Anna Maria Perez de Tagle.
This year, however, American Idol finalist Jessica Sanchez is also being included in the list of potential “Kims”.
Since its inception, Miss Saigon has generally cast Filipino artists for the musical especially for the role of the young Vietnamese Kim. After Lea Salonga has finished her project with Miss Saigon along with her Filipina understudy Monique Wilson, other Filipina artists took over the role of Kim including Ma-An Dionisio, Joanna Ampil and Jamie Rivera.
Jessica, Thia, Anna Marie and Charice have Filipino roots and are vocal powerhouses in their own right. If they are indeed being considered for the role of Kim, their acting abilities may just be the main deciding factor that would land the most deserving of them the coveted role. Although Lea’s shoes are pretty difficult to fill, any one of these youngsters could give a newer and fresher version of Kim that may very well cater to the taste of the modern theater-goers.
Although there are speculations about the producers traveling around the world again to likely cast an “unknown” for the role of Kim, it looks like their option to cast a popular and vocally powerful star is difficult to ignore.
Who do you think should be the next Kim?