‘Miss Saigon’ Brings Love and War to Hollywood Pantages Theatre

Miss Saigon” is one of the most popular and acclaimed musicals of our time. The winner of three Tony Awards and two Laurence Olivier Awards, the show has proved its endurance since its debut, becoming the thirteenth longest-running show in Broadway history.

The story, by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil with lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby Jr., follows the ill-fated romance of an American soldier Chris (Anthony Festa, “Wicked,” “Finding Neverland”) and a Vietnamese bar girl named Kim (Emily Bautista) in the final days of the Vietnam War. Kim’s boss, known only as The Engineer (Red Concepción, “West Side Story,” “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”), complicates things with his corruption, while the ravages of war also conspire against them.

Schönberg (“Les Misérables”) was hit hard by an image of a Vietnamese woman putting her daughter on a plane bound for the United States where she would reunite with her father, hoping for a better life. He considered it the ultimate sacrifice, giving up one’s child for the child’s sake. He was so moved, he was inspired to create “Miss Saigon,” also based on the opera “Madama Butterfly” by Giacomo Puccini.

Schönberg and Boublil said in 2014 in London, “The pain of being torn apart and the fracture of the maternal bond must always be a presence in the depths of this woman’s heart. This photo could have been taken today in Syria, Sudan, and probably in the Ukraine. We hope that such a picture will never be taken here.”

“It has been over 27 years since Miss Saigon first opened in North America but, if anything, the tragic love story at the heart of the show has become even more relevant today with innocent people being torn apart by war all over the world,” producer Cameron Mackintosh said in a statement. “This brilliant new production… takes a grittier, more realistic approach that magnifies the power and epic sweep of Boublil and Schönberg’s tremendous score.”

Having toured the world extensively since its debut, “Miss Saigon” is sweeping the country again, hitting Los Angeles for nearly a month at the historic Hollywood Pantages Theatre. Produced by the legendary Tony and Olivier Award-winning Mackintosh (“Hamilton,” Cats,” “Mary Poppins” and “Kinky Boots”) and directed by Laurence Connor, the show stars relative newcomer Bautista in what was a star-making role for Lea Salonga, who originated it and won a Tony for her work.

The 21-year-old Connecticut native told the Boston Globe that Kim “is one of the strongest women I have ever gotten to play onstage.” Having previously played Éponine in Mackintosh’s “Les Misérables” (another role Salonga played), she knows complex characters.

For this revival, Schönberg and Boublil wrote a new song, “Maybe” (which replaced “Now That I’ve Seen Her”) for the character of Ellen (Stacie Bono), Chris’ American wife who fears losing Chris to Kim. The tune was written by the songwriters with hope that the girl in the photograph who inspired the production actually found success and happiness in the States. Because maybe she did.

Miss Saigon” opens July 16 and runs through Aug. 11 at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles, CA.