Miss Saigon at Hawai’i’s Army Community Theatre (Plus Revisionism)

While in Hawai’i, I read this review of Miss Saigon – the first local production of the musical in Hawai’i:

An expendable Asian woman’s timely suicide gets an American Vietnam vet and his wife out of an awkward situation — that is the apparently intended, albeit unconventional, subtext of Army Community Theatre’s otherwise enjoyable “Miss Saigon.” [T]he implication of a boy going to America over his mother’s dead body tinges this story of star-crossed lovers with subtle hints of ethnocentrism.

A fantastic review of not just the production but the problems of the script (and it’s Madama Butterfly source):

As Chris walks away without a backward look at the body of the woman he once promised to marry, and the boy leaves his mother with no sign of grief, it seems that the death of an Asian woman doesn’t matter, as if her existence is an inconvenience for an American couple. And if that’s where the story is coming from, Kim would have done better to have shot Ellen, reclaimed Chris for her own, and had the Engineer arrange a cover-up in exchange for getting him his ticket to the American dream.

Would that not totally rock? I would pay extra to see Kim pull a Dirty Harry and shoot down Ellen, dismiss Chris and somehow escape to the States. That would be awesome!!

It sounds like the director rushed the ending. Once Kim shoots herself and is revealed, sings and dies, the entire show should just stop. Stop the music, stop the robolights, stop the romance of a ‘suicide with honor’. There are several major transitions to pack into that silence. To just have Chris and honey and their new son dance off is trashing the previous three hours. Chris should hold Kim as she dies. Long awkward pause. Tam runs to Chris. Ellen stands off feeling like a white American asshole, crying. Perhaps she goes to comfort Tam but he doesn’t just drop his guard but withdraws to his dad. Maybe Tam tentatively takes Ellen’s hand and walks off. Chris is left onstage with Kim’s body, maybe he covers it. He walks off. The neighbors, who heard the gunshot come in and discover Kim’s body. Perhaps the script’s ending will always be as flawed as Madama Butterfly‘s and in forty years there will be a revision of it (a la David Henry Hwang’s King and I). Until then, there has to be much more weight or the entire political anchor of the play is dumped and remains a manipulative ploy to pump the audience for tears.

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About Andy

Gay Hoosier Taurus INFJ ex-playwright pianist gymbunny published author in San Francisco. Tw · Fb

3 thoughts on “Miss Saigon at Hawai’i’s Army Community Theatre (Plus Revisionism)

  1. Saigon Fan

    The original version of “Miss Saigon” starring the talented and Emmy-winning Lea Salonga had a much more dramatic and heartfelt end to the musical. If you haven’t seen it, pick up the 2-disc CD set and listen to it. You can literally hear the pain in John’s voice as he holds Kim in his arms as she dies. I don’t know why this Hawaii version felt it was suitable to change the ending as to what you’ve described….

  2. Andy

    I actually saw the original Broadway cast, a week after they’d won the Tony awards. It was awesome. And if you’d read the article, you’d see that the ending was not changed. It was just a suggestion in reaction to the play’s racist tendencies.

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