Backstage Musings With The Miss Saigon 2024 Cast

The cast of Miss Saigon share what it means to star in one of the world’s biggest musicals, all while reflecting on the paths they took and experiences that shaped them. 

On a Tuesday afternoon in the Theatre at Solaire, all was quiet: seats were empty and ready for the next Miss Saigon show. The silence had a deafening, almost imposing presence; it was clear to me that it took more than talent to fill an entire theater with the sound of music. Behind every performance is a group of people who stand as testament to the inextricable link between creativity and the indomitable human spirit. 

Upon entering the theater’s dressing room, I met the talents who lent their voices and acting prowess to the musical’s characters. On stage, Abigail Adriano plays the strong yet kind-hearted Vietnamese bar girl Kim; Kiara Dario her fellow bar girl and dreamer, Gigi; Seann Miley Moore takes the role of the ever-enterprising and comedic Engineer; Laurence Mossman the austere Vietnamese soldier Thuy; and Nigel Huckle is the well-meaning American G.I. and Kim’s love interest, Chris. Though in that peaceful afternoon, they came as they were, their personas cast aside until the day’s evening performance, casual exchanges and laughter permeating the room.

I had the pleasure of speaking with members of the cast as they reflected on how far they’ve come as both performers and people, now standing center stage in one of the world’s most popular musicals. 

READ ALSO: Musical Mind: Up Close And Personal With Claude-Michel Schönberg

Abigail Adriano 

It’s no easy feat to play the protagonist of any story—oftentimes, they’re on the receiving end of every trial and tribulation writers can think of. Yet it’s conflict that maintains the narrative’s momentum: a necessity that not only shapes its key players, but arguably reveals their truest selves. It peels back the layers, a rewarding process that makes for some of the most compelling personalities.  

Abigail Adriano
Abigail Adriano

What lies at the core of Miss Saigon’s Kim is a young woman who harbors so much compassion and devotion that people often mistake it for naivete; but audiences can learn a lot from a character who, despite all the cruelties of the world, still chooses to love. The Kim that audiences see on the stage is someone who isn’t afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve, an act of tender ferocity that Filipino-Australian actress Abigail Adriano embodies to a T.  

A Tale of Two Girls

Kim’s story has always been a coming-of-age tale that chronicles one girl’s journey into womanhood. Many of the actresses who’ve previously taken on the role grew alongside the character, including Lea Salonga, who was only 18 when she debuted (and won a Tony and Olivier awards for her legendary performance). Adriano, who’s 19, follows a similar path, learning more about life as she takes on such a big part.

“I think Miss Saigon was a maturing experience for me,” she explained. “I feel like I’m riding this journey with Kim.” Adriano discussed how, despite her years of training, the entire journey was still something new, much like how Kim finds herself in an unfamiliar world. “Doing Miss Saigon was not just a role. It was a sense of duty; there was so much meaning behind the story I was telling. So in that sense, becoming an actor for a story that was real was another level of skill that I was kind of confronted with. Learning how to depict a character whose life and whose tragedy happens today was something so empowering for me and life-changing as an actor.”

When asked if she shares any common traits with Kim, Adriano replied: “There are a lot of things about Kim that I see in myself.  I think her innocence and her sense of hope is so alluring and it’s kind of the character that every young girl wants to be, because of that charm that she has. Growing up, I always wanted to be like her. But now as I’m getting older, I’d like to say that I’m gaining the confidence Kim has as well.”

Being Miss Saigon

Taking on any role comes with its fair share of challenges, especially for a character as monumental as Adriano’s. The musical doesn’t shy away from portraying the brutality of a world at war. Where there are weary soldiers, there’s a market for sex workers who are exposed to acts of aggression and objectification in an effort to support themselves (and their loved ones) amid less than ideal circumstances. 

Abigail Adriano stars as Kim in Miss Saigon
Abigail Adriano stars as Kim in Miss Saigon

“The most challenging part is getting through all the trauma that Kim goes through. But I think it’s the most rewarding part […], because it grounds me as a character and as a human,” Adriano shared. There was also the pressure of being Kim, a character who has captured the collective imagination of theater fans since the musical’s first premiere. That said, the young actress learned that a shift in perspective is what she needed to overcome these obstacles.

“When I place my focus on the storytelling, when I place my focus on the hardships that she goes through, that becomes more of a rewarding challenge for me than ‘Let’s please the audience’ or ‘Let’s put on a good performance,’” she expounded. “How can I do justice to the story? When I shifted my perspective from ‘Oh, how am I going to perform this’ to ‘How am I going to tell a story,’ then it became a little easier.”

The Strength of a Woman

To Adriano, Miss Saigon is an ever-evolving tale, like an oral tradition that grows more complex as different voices add to its narrative over time. “I don’t think there’s ever such a thing as a perfect performance, because there’s always more room to give justice to a story as nuanced as this,” she stated. “People might say that Kim’s character is archaic. But I think that with the way we’ve interpreted the story, she takes charge of her own destiny, and I want to do that as well.”

“The role is literally a role model for me, about what womanhood should be,” she added. “If anything, it’s probably my best teacher right now, especially as I’m beginning this international tour, living by myself and having to speak for myself.”

Abigail Adriano and Nigel Huckle, who play the musical's lovebirds
Abigail Adriano and Nigel Huckle, who play the musical’s lovebirds

Adriano has learned a lot from her role, but if she has one key takeaway, it’s the importance of trusting herself as a performer. “What I learned from Kim is to hold your integrity, to stay dignified. […] You’re the only one that’s with you on the stage; I just really learned to trust my talent and skill to tell the story.”

As for her favorite part of playing the role, Adriano finds joy in working alongside her little co-stars who play Kim’s son, Tam. “I think having them in the building with a show as emotional as this, it just brings life and lightness to everything because then you just hear them giggling at the side of the stage,” she said with a laugh. “And it’s really refreshing.”

I Am Talking of Staying Free

I asked Adriano if there was a specific lyric from the musical’s songs that stuck with her. Her reply was an enthusiastic one as she recalled poring over Miss Saigon’s book and score. It’s a line from “You Will Not Touch Him,” in a heated confrontation between Kim, Thuy, and the Engineer. 

“I am talking of life or death now/I am talking of staying free,” Adriano recited. The three characters say it simultaneously during the number, and it’s something that’s intensely moving for the actress. “It’s really potent both in a musical sense and just as a sentence itself. During Thuy’s intervention, we say it at the same time simultaneously. We’re all trying to break free from each other’s grasp because we all want our own thing in life.”

It’s a line that plays with the paradoxical nature of each character’s desires, how a group of people can want, in essence, the same thing—in this case, freedom—but how vastly different their definitions of the said thing are. 

“For Thuy it’s ‘Come with me, I need you [Kim] in my life,’ but for me it’s ‘I need to do this for my son to give him a better life,” and for the Engineer it’s ‘I need to be successful in another world, I need to make sure I survive here,’” the actress explained. 

The Abigail Behind the Scenes

Performers put on a mask on stage, though parts of themselves still trickle into their portrayals of the characters. “There are moments in the show where I’m like, ‘Oh, this is definitely also backstage Abby.’  Moments where I giggle or where I like to put my crazy self into Kim sometimes, my goofy self, because I am quite jolly. I’m very easy-going backstage and I always have fun with everyone.”

There are differences, of course, given the poignancy of the musical. “If we compare that to onstage, Kim I would say that she’s much more controlled than I am,” she explained, “But I still like to inject a little bit of fun into her.”

With how eventful her career has been, I asked Abigail what she would tell her younger self, if she had the chance to go back in time. “Everything’s going to be okay,” she answered. “You know, I’ve always wanted to do Kim, but I never knew it was on my radar. There are times when self-doubt can become a reality for a lot of us, when you look at a commercial production and it’s such a staple with an iconic role that’s already been done so perfectly by the likes of Lea Salonga, Monqiue Wilson, Eva Noblezada…so I think I’d tell my younger self, even myself two years ago, that everything will be okay.”

The actress quoted singer-songwriter Alicia Keys, her tone self-assured. “No one else brings to the table what you can bring to the table,” she said. “Nothing will ever take away our own personal flair.”

Nigel Huckle

Next to Kim is Chris, whose very presence serves as an inciting event or turning point in the young girl’s life and, in some way, represents her hopes and dreams. He promises genuine love, safety, and a stable home far away from the turmoil of the Vietnam War. Some people have read Chris to be a white savior of sorts, seeing his relationship with Kim just as a means to an end (in this case, escape). However, upon watching the musical, it’s clear that there’s a genuine love between the two. 

Nigel Huckle
Nigel Huckle

It’s frantic and fast-paced, but one can understand why given the dire circumstances (with the entire song “Last Night of the World” encapsulating this). In the midst of war, “tomorrow” is hardly a guarantee. 

American-Australian Nigel Huckle breathes life into Chris’ character, injecting him with a refreshing sensitivity and softness that subverts the idea of a hyper-masculine soldier. Instead, audiences get a man who stands true to his personal values despite the expectations and norms of his fellow G.I.s, making it easier to understand why Kim liked him from the very beginning. 

Worth the Wait

To say that Miss Saigon is the culmination of years of hard work on Huckle’s end would be an understatement. Much like Moore, he waited patiently for a chance to jump into a project as big as this one, working across different industries and careers along the way, including hospitality. At 32-years-old, the actor can proudly say that his time to shine has finally arrived. 

“I think people outside of the industry, they think you just show up to an audition and the most talented person gets the job,” he explained. “And it’s not like that. I mean, yes you have to have talent, but you have to also have a reputation to be trusted with something like this.”

He credits his experience in hospitality for imbuing him with the mindset and attitudes necessary in cultivating a stellar professional image. Creating and nurturing his relationships, as well as delivering the best work possible while treating everyone he meets with respect, are just some of the keys to his success. 

“It took years of me not getting the job, but still going to audition rooms and doing good work,” he added. “Over the years people have said, ‘Oh, I’ve seen this person before. This is the right chance. This is the right opportunity.’” It certainly was an opportune time for the New York-based actor, who didn’t expect to get hired for Miss Saigon’s Australian production—yet his effort speaks for itself, as he took a plane to Australia for a final callback, and the rest as they say, is history. Though he’s starred in other big productions like Les Misérables, this is his first foray into playing a principal role for a work of this scale. 

Diving Into the Music

Huckle graduated with a BFA in Musical Theatre from Shenandoah Conservatory, so it makes sense that he holds a particular passion for all things music. Of the many things he loves about Miss Saigon, its songs are what “make the show so epic” in his eyes. The experience has allowed him to fully relish in being a vocalist, which he described as “one of the most rewarding parts of doing this show.” The actor got to put all the music theory he learned back in his university days to practice: “To really sink your teeth into a score like this is something every musical theater performer dreams of.”

Nigel Huckle plays Chris Scott in Miss Saigon
Nigel Huckle plays Chris Scott in Miss Saigon

As for his favorite lyric from the musical, Huckle recited a line from a scene not involving Chris, but rather, Thuy and Kim. “I knew in time faith would weave a design/Tying your life and mine into one,” the actor shared. 

“There’s a whole discovery in that relationship. […] When that was pointed out to me, I realized there aren’t really any villains in this show,” he continued. “Just people who have been affected by war and loss, and are being driven by hope. I think that line is so beautifully written first of all, but second of all, [it] really shows the dynamics and complexities of the characters.”

Playing Chris

Playing Chris comes with its rewards and obstacles, though Huckle has far surpassed the latter, offering a fresh portrayal of the character that feels both true to the legacies left behind by actors who previously took on the role—like Simon Bowman and Will Chase—and entirely unique. 

The actor admitted that he initially tried to fit into the “straight-laced” image of Chris, trying to put more bravado into someone he perceived as a very macho character. “Cameron [Mackintosh] said, ‘Hey, I think you’re doing something that you think the role needs to be. I can see who you are and you can bring more of yourself to the role,’” he shared. Huckle described himself as someone with more effervescence, so he worked his bubbly personality into the role in the same way Adriano injected a sense of giddiness and playfulness into Kim.

“To be given that permission to bring my side of Nigel into Chris, so that he’s a bit more fun and spontaneous, I think that’s been a real big reward of this experience, too,” he added. 

Heart and Mind

Huckle still had to bridge core differences between him and his character, sharing that he’s very cerebral in nature, whereas Chris tends to be more emotional, letting his heart lead more than his mind. So the actor worked to understand his role in the best way that he could: through meticulous research and character study. 

“He makes a lot of rash decisions, which is how the story progresses,” he stated. “He suddenly decides that he’s going to take Kim with him to America—that’s not a rational decision. But Chris isn’t rational; Kim changes his worldview entirely and creates this excitement in him that drives all those decisions. Finding that sort of emotional impulsiveness was kind of the biggest challenge, because I’m not quite like that.”

Abigail Adriano and Nigel Huckle
Abigail Adriano and Nigel Huckle

To Huckle, Chris’ story can seem incredibly far-fetched if one doesn’t commit to the story fully. “The hotel scene and the breakdown, it’s not something you often get given permission to do as an actor: to sort of entirely spill your heart and your mind,” he explained. “I did a lot of research on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and how that manifests physiologically and psychologically. […] He starts with this disillusionment, and then all of a sudden he’s enamored with this new person in his life. For that to be taken from him, and to navigate the journey of recovering from that loss, to create a new life, and then to be told, actually, this part of you still exists. It’s a massive emotional journey.”

The Nigel Behind the Scenes

As for Nigel off stage, the actor explained how the nature of his job is essentially “living out of a suitcase” in a bubble with everyone he works with. “Stability is a really difficult thing to get a grasp on when you’re on tour, but then coming to work, coming to the theater, putting my costume on and going on stage: for me, that moment seems to be what brings me the most peace and stillness,” he intimated. “And I’m just trying to relish that as much as I can.”

Huckle talked about how he and Chris shared a strong sense of loyalty. “When Chris attaches himself to something. He does it with his full self. And that’s sort of why I think he has this huge emotional self-destruction after losing Kim,” he shared. “Because that world was a world he wanted to create so badly. And I identify with that because I get very easily attached to people, things, and ideas.”

The message that Huckle carries for his younger self goes back to his long but worthwhile journey as an actor: “Just be patient; it’s a matter of time, and you have what it takes. Keep showing people that, keep your head down, and keep doing the work. And it’s gonna happen.”

Laurence Mossman

Thuy is a divisive character, which shows how compelling his writing is. It’s easy to paint him as the antagonist of Miss Saigon: a possessive man who stands in the way of the other characters’ dreams, forcing Kim to be with him and threatening the life of her son Tam. Yet there’s more to his story, as he’s also just a man caught in a war and ultimately transformed by it, much like Chris. 

Laurence Mossman
Laurence Mossman

Filipino-Kiwi actor Laurence Mossman adds his own unique voice to Thuy, portraying a character who, beneath the harsh words and threats, wants to respect his country’s traditions and live a life of stability with Kim, his betrothed. Though it doesn’t justify his aggressions and comes into conflict with Kim’s desires, Mossman plays the role in a way that helps audiences understand where the Vietnamese soldier is coming from. 

Growing as a Performer 

Mossman trained in the Philippines for six years after graduating from the University of Otago with an honors degree in Music. Since then, he’s starred in a number of local and international productions, and credits his growth as an actor to the fellow talents he surrounded himself with. 

“All facets of my performance have grown,” he stated. “What can I say? When you do something repeatedly […], it’s the best way to hone your craft. We’re surrounded by so many amazing creatives, and they’re really at the top of their game. We have some of the best singers and actors you’ll ever see on stage; when you’re surrounded by that, it can only help you to sort of better yourself and level up.”

The actor didn’t hesitate to speak candidly about the challenges that come with his profession, especially when one is working in such a large-scale production. “Of course I’m blessed, so thankful to actually have the opportunity. But it’s not easy to show up every day, and you know, give the best of yourself,” he admitted. 

“You want to be able to give the audience the best story that they can see on stage. So you really have to emotionally and physically be present every single day; some days are harder than others,” he intimated. “But it’s also learning to be able to really just take care of yourself and show up and be present, to give the audience your character and what you’ve worked on for so many weeks.

The Laurence Behind the Scenes

Thuy has some of the more jarring line deliveries in the musical, with a voice that rises with the force of an erupting volcano. It’s a depiction that’s quite different from who Mossman is, which just goes to show how good his acting chops are. 

“The people who know me know that I’m quite reserved. I’m quite a personal person. I like to keep my emotions and my thoughts to myself,” he shared with a timid smile. “The people that I do love, I allow them inside that circle. And it’s very different to who I am on stage, for sure.”

Laurence Mossman plays Thuy in Miss Saigon
Laurence Mossman plays Thuy in Miss Saigon

Yet the actor prevails, using his empathy to step into the shoes of a character whose experiences don’t necessarily mirror his own inclinations. “Sometimes you have to play romantic leads, or sometimes you have to play people who are a lot different than who you are. And that’s a challenge in itself. That comes from just learning about people and being sympathetic to others,” he explained. “Certainly with Thuy, he’s quite loud at times, and I don’t think you’ll ever see me being loud.”

I asked him what he’d tell his younger self, if he had the chance to talk to him. “Don’t stop your Tagalog lessons,” he replied with a mortified chuckle. “When I first came here, I started taking Tagalog lessons, but I just got shy.”

“And keep going,” he added. “Keep doing what you’re doing and do what you love. Always find love in what you do. Because if you can’t, you know—whether it be relationships [or] work—then maybe you shouldn’t be there.”

Moving Music

Mossman’s favorite part of starring in Miss Saigon is performing its songs. “Claude-Michel Schönberg has written some amazing music for all the characters, and Thuy is no exception. He’s got quite a wide range,” he explained. “I just wanted to portray him as someone who was commanding and powerful all throughout this range, whether it’s the low notes or high notes in the emotionally-heightened scenes. As a singer first and foremost, I really love just being able to belt out those scenes with Kim. It’s amazing.”

The actor shared his favorite scene, one where Thuy [spoiler alert for those watching the musical for the first time] dies in the arms of Kim, letting his walls fall and returning to the simple village boy she once knew, rather than the threatening soldier he became.

“There’s nothing to guard anymore,” he elaborated. “He’s just totally expressing himself and his anger at the situation and everything that’s gone on; this whole war has sort of created him, you know.”

Mossman can’t choose a specific lyric that made a mark on him [“They’re all so good!”], but he expressed how its love songs leave him in awe. “‘Sun and Moon,’ for example, every single lyric and all the imagery that’s painted through it, how they weave it with the music…they just don’t make it like that anymore.”

Playing Thuy

Mossman still finds common ground between him and Thuy through their shared determination. “I think the thing that we have in common is that he’s very single-minded; he grew up with his culture’s specific values on family, you know, people and country. So he latches on to those values very, very fiercely, and nothing will make him waver from that,” he stated. 

“I’m also guilty of being quite single-minded in things; not a great multi-tasker,” he laughed. “But if I love something, or really want to do something, then I do it to the point of being obsessive.”

As for the challenge of taking on the role of Thuy, Mossman returned to the necessity of having to show up every day and pour as much energy as possible into the role of a man who’ll stop at nothing to get what he longs for. “Thuy is there to get a result, to get Kim, basically,” he said. “You know, that’s really the hardest thing: no matter what day it is, to just sort of bring that energy even when you’re tired, even if it’s your last Sunday show. […] It’s a very physically and emotionally demanding role, even though it’s short. I love the challenge, but it’s certainly very difficult.”

Despite this, he expressed how much he enjoys playing the nuanced figure. “Thuy is a wonderfully complex character, he’s not black and white. The best comments that I get from audience members is that they actually empathize with him, or can kind of see his side of the story; when I hear that, then I know I’m doing my job right.”

Seann Miley Moore

The Engineer is one of the musical’s most pivotal characters, as much as the main protagonists Kim and Chris. The enterprising pimp of Miss Saigon’s bar girls has always been a source of levity within the musical’s more serious moments, with a long line of spectacular actors taking on the role. From Jonathan Pryce to Jon Jon Briones, these performers have cemented themselves in the memories of audiences for decades. 

Seann Miley Moore
Seann Miley Moore

Though much of the Engineer’s core characteristics and lines have remained the same, certain aspects of the character’s portrayal have evolved in recent years. For instance, Filipino actress Joanna Ampil played the first and only female engineer in a 2023 West End production of the musical. Now, Filipino-Australian actor Seann Miley Moore continues to push the boundaries of who the character can be, providing a queer twist to the beloved yet morally-questionable bar owner. 

The Pioneering Engine-queer

It’s clear that an actor was born to play a role in Miss Saigon when Cameron Mackintosh himself gives two thumbs up; this is exactly the kind of response Moore received from the world-renowned producer. “He said, ‘You know, what you’ve done is revolutionary and pioneering; it’s never been done the way you have [done it],’” the performer recalled. 

If one is fortunate enough to watch Moore play the Engineer, it’s easy to see why Mackintosh praised their performance. The actor embraces the inherently flamboyant nature of his part, leaning heavily into the campy grandiosity of it all, leaving me—and no doubt many other audience members—thinking ‘This makes so much sense, it just feels right.

The performer emphasized the significance of telling Asian stories, and making space for diverse narratives. “We need more main character Asian stories on those stages,” he stated, recounting about how much has changed since he first entered the industry 10 years ago. 

“I was always told, even by my agents: ‘There are never roles for you, as a queer person, as a brown person in Australia.’ I’ve been told that most of my career, so I paved the way to do my own thing, being who I am, unapologetically myself and proud. I stuck to my guns,” they explained. “I’ve stuck to being me, when everyone from the world and industry said ‘You can’t be you, there’s nothing there.’ But now the world’s caught up, and we [the queer community] deserve to be here.”

Finding Inspiration Everywhere 

Moore plays their role with such energy and passion that it truly feels like the Engineer’s most natural evolution. Music is what guides the performer, who explained: “I just let it talk to me. So ‘American Dream,’ it’s kind of swanky and very cabaret Liza Minnelli; some of the lyrics are very homoerotic, but delicious and sexy.”

The actor gets quite creative when it comes to interpretations of their character’s songs, which makes their rendition all the more memorable. In a sense, their portrayal is an amalgamation of their decade-long experience performing in singing competitions, pride marches, dive bars, and all other manner of stages. 

The Engineer and his girls
The Engineer and his girls

They cite their drag performer friend Gingzilla as an inspiration in instances where the Engineer uses innuendos to create a build-up of sorts, comparing his famous “American Dream” to the rising tensions before a sexual climax, with his character’s desires and aspirations getting bigger and bigger. “It’s funny, it’s humorous, it’s disgusting, it’s grotesque,” they shared with a delighted laugh. 

Moore possesses a contagiously vivacious demeanor, though this doesn’t mean they don’t face the fatigue that comes with being a dedicated performer. “It’s eight show weeks, and sometimes we do two shows a day; that’s like a three and half-hour show. As an actor you’re in these positions of fight or flight, you’re living in a war zone. Like, that’s a lot to kind of go through mentally, physically,” they shared. The actor maintains their good technique through “a lot of water and a little 20-minute yoga in the morning.” 

“Oh, and I love a good breakfast like cornsilog [a Filipino dish typically made up of corned beef, fried egg, and garlic rice] in the morning to get me through,” they added with a smile.

The Movie In Their Mind

“It [Miss Saigon] is quintessential musical theater. It takes you on a huge roller coaster ride with the music, the story. But what I remember about it is the fierce, unapologetic women on the stage, me and my bar girls. And we’ve written it so that we are in charge,” Moore shared when I asked them what they were going to take away from their entire experience. “Fierce, sexy, unapologetic, which kind of reminded me of my titas. And that’s what I love about it. It’s the women of the show. It means even more with GMG, since they’re an all-female team as well. And that is so important.”

As a performer, they’re a fan of the classic “I want” songs in musicals, tunes that reveal a character’s core desires. In this case, the lyrics of “The Movie in My Mind” are what stuck with them the most. “It’s when he [the Engineer] says ‘The playground of mankind/the movie in my mind.’ He talks about the playground of mankind, America, the movie in my mind, that’s what he wants. […] That relates to what gorgeous Kiara [Gigi] sings in ‘The Movie in My Mind,’ which is the escape, the want,” they elaborated. 

Acting Authenticity

In regard to “Onstage Seann” and “Off-stage Seann,” the lines might seem a little blurry. Even behind the scenes, the performer is larger than life, someone who carries themselves like the world is their stage. That said, Moore is more than comfortable wearing nothing but a sarong and lounging around, putting the extravagance on hold, if only for a while. 

Ironically, the performer doesn’t need to keep up a big facade when they’re the Engineer, even if they’re playing a part. “I inject everything that is Shawn Miley Moore into everything that I do in life. Growing up queer, growing up in a world that told you to act this way, dress this way, talk a certain way. I almost had to play a character to fit in—but once I realized I don’t need to play that character, I can just be me…I went, ‘Oh my god.’”

Seann Miley Moore plays the Engineer in Miss Saigon
Seann Miley Moore plays the Engineer in Miss Saigon

After 18 years of trying to be someone they weren’t, Moore now uses their craft as a conduit for expressing their truest self. “I’m not playing the character anymore. I’m playing myself, which is great. On stage, it’s the ultimate expression and I’m being me.” 

However, Moore still learned a thing or two from the Engineer: “He’s a showman. He works that stage on and off to get where he needs to, and that character has really made me a bit more confident: unashamed and unapologetic to get what I want. Maybe a bit more fearless, which I love.”

“You should’ve put on those high-heels earlier,” Moore said with a big grin when I asked what they’d tell their younger self. Yet his tone shifted into something more reflective and reassuring: “It’s always about timing right? The world is ready for someone like me now, which is really great.”

Kiara Dario

Born and raised in the Philippines, Kiara Dario is another fantastic addition to the country’s long line of homegrown performers, proving that our local arts scene is still rife with talent. Her character, Gigi, has some of the fewest lines throughout the musical; though make no mistake, she’s more than a supporting role. 

Kiara Dario
Kiara Dario

Gigi represents another side of Kim’s world, the reality that might have been if the young girl hadn’t found Chris. In one particularly harrowing scene where Gigi picks a fight with a soldier, audiences can see just how much the woman had to withstand in the hopes of finding a better life. They see it again when she sings the sorrowful and wistful “The Movie in my Mind,” which captures her pain and desires. 

Every actress who played the role brought their own flair to the character, though they all possessed a powerful voice: the only kind of voice that can make a mark in such little time. 

Front and Center

In a press conference, Dario shared a funny but moving anecdote about her first taste of musical theater as three-year-old who’d re-watch Hey, Mr.Producer!, a concert homage to Cameron Mackintosh that included performances of musicals like Miss Saigon. At the time, the young Dario proudly announced that she wanted to become a bar girl like Gigi—a funny statement, but also a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. 

After years of training and stints in local productions like Ang Huling El Bimbo and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the 26-year-old actress now stands in an enormous, international stage. When I asked how she’d compare the performer she was then to who she is now, she recalled how she began her theater career mainly as a member of ensembles in various productions since 2014. 

“I think it’s an amazing thing now to be able to transition my career into principal roles. And that was a huge, huge, huge challenge for me, because now I’m still in the process of learning how to take up space,” she explained. “Whereas before, I was there to fill the stage and do a lot of things in the background. Now, I think there is a certain maturity that comes with learning when to not do things; less is more, and stillness is still powerful.”

Playing Gigi

For a performer who’s often played young characters in past productions, stepping into the shoes of Gigi was a challenge in itself. “Now I have to play someone who’s very mature and sure of herself,” she expressed with a laugh before recalling how difficult it was to take a solo bow when she played her first principal role two years ago. “I didn’t know how to react. But impostor syndrome was really real. I think that’s a challenge that I continue to undergo as an actor today.”

Dario’s confidence onstage betrays no hint of the personal and professional journey she took to overcoming her shy disposition. She shared that it wasn’t easy learning how to be bolder, even beyond the stage, but the experience ended up becoming her favorite part of it all. 

“I remember in Adelaide, my note was always ‘Kiara, you need to own your space more; you don’t have to adjust for other people. Let them adjust for you,’” she shared. “So I had a Spotify playlist that I would play on the way to rehearsals, when I would walk from my apartment to the theater. I would tell myself, ‘Okay, don’t adjust for other people, walk with purpose. And funnily enough, people would really adjust for me.”

Finding Her Voice

With fondness, Dario stated that this newfound confidence is the biggest lesson that Gigi taught her. “I feel like as women, we always try to not be an inconvenience. We always want to be accommodating to other people; but I think playing Gigi has really taught me that you can be unapologetically loud and take up space, and that is okay as a woman.”

Kiara Dario plays Gigi in Miss Saigon
Kiara Dario plays Gigi in Miss Saigon

A challenge, however, was trying to convey all of her character’s layers, given her limited lines and songs. “It was really about clarity in the text. Like, if her line is just, ‘She’ll live the movie in my mind,’ what does that mean? And it only happens for like one second, but there has to be so many layers underneath that line,” she elaborated. “I have to make the most out of it, each line counts. How do I make sure that the message comes through in those little moments?”

Making Space for Asian Talent

Dario shares a similar advocacy with co-stars like Moore, holding Miss Saigon in high regard for many things, but most especially for the opportunities it gave. Since 1989, the musical has been what the actress described as “a gateway for Asian performers to be given an international platform.” To her, it’s a step towards a more inclusive future for the continent’s creatives.

“It just goes to show how many Asian performers are still out there that haven’t been discovered; they haven’t been given the opportunities because there aren’t as many stories for them to be a part of,” she expressed. “My biggest takeaway is that we have the talent, we have the stories and people: we just need to be able to produce the shows and give the support Asian artists deserve. We’re half the world and there’s so many diverse stories.”

Dario’s favorite lyrics from the musical reflect these personal beliefs as well, as the actress recited lines from Kim’s ballad of motherhood “I’d Give My Life for You.” 

“You will be who you want to be/You can choose whatever heaven grants,” she shared. “Knowing that you are not given all of the privileges of this world: that’s all you want for somebody who comes after you, right? Having people like Lea Salonga and Isay Alvarez to look up to…they opened doors for us to be able to choose the dreams that we were able to pursue today. I think that freedom of choice is so important growing up, and being able to see yourself in roles that you would want to take in the future.”

The Kiara Behind the Scenes

Like many of her co-stars, the Kiara backstage is worlds away from who Gigi is. “I have social anxiety, so getting into this new cast and in a different continent…I was rehearsing for a month, living alone for the first time, and there was a lot of anxiety coming into that,” she confessed. “Whereas me on stage, it’s pure confidence and boldness.”

There are some common threads between her and Gigi, however. “At her core, we’re very alike: we have this intensity [to us] and emotions that we don’t necessarily want to show other people. We don’t want to show people our negative emotions,” she expounded. “But a lot of that stems from love, loyalty, and strength.”

As Dario shares with her TikTok followers, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that audiences will never know. It’s part of the allure of theater: a magic trick is only ever as good as the magician who makes it look effortless. Yet the actress openly acknowledged that it took plenty of self work and love, as well as learning how to receive criticism in a way that wasn’t all-consuming, to get to where she is. 

Dario has plenty to take pride in when it comes to both her professional and personal journey, and when I asked her what she’d tell her younger self, she said: “God has a plan. Because I know that things were not easy for me at all. I had to go through a lot of rejection in my personal life, a lot of challenges. And I would tell myself to not let anybody dull your shine, or make you feel small just to appease them. Trust your instincts and believe that the dream you have will happen, because it will.”

What Miss Saigon Means Today

Not many musicals can stand in the place of Miss Saigon, which even after numerous runs, still fills up theaters around the world. It has everything, from fantastic music to an impressive cast; but its timeless narrative is probably the beating heart of it all. It evolved to resonate with current audiences, but transpose its story of war and loss onto today’s world, and not much has changed. 

“I was watching CNN last night, and literally story after story, this is what was going on; so we haven’t really learned our lesson,” Mossman shared. “This musical sort of holds up a mirror and goes ‘This is who we are and we as people, as a collective and in different countries, have decisions to make as a result of that.’”

The cast of Miss Saigon 2024
The cast of Miss Saigon 2024

Dario added: “Lives have been destroyed because of war. These are people who just want to love, who just want to dream, want the best for themselves and their families. And look at how war destroys all of that. So I think the one message that I want audiences to leave with is: what is the point of all of this violence?”

“I think it’s a testament to the world’s political climate, the wars that are still going on today,” Adriano continued. “I feel like if it can change one person’s life, if it can motivate one person in the audience, or move one person that night, then it’s a job done.”

Their Story Is Ours

Like their characters, these actors have spent years overcoming obstacles and holding onto their dreams, even if they weren’t sure how everything would pan out. It’s worth remembering that despite the somberness and tragedy present in the musical, its story is far from bleak.

It’s the threads of love and hope that tie the brokenness of its characters—and their war-torn world—together. There would be no Miss Saigon without a mother’s love, a partner’s embrace, and even a lofty American dream. The characters may not get their happy endings, but if there’s anything audiences can learn from them and their actors, it’s that the pursuit of something better is as meaningful as the promise of it.


Sittings Editor KIM LUNA

Creative Director KIM ANGELA SANTOS

Art Director PAOLO TORIO



Shoot Coordination MAE TALAID

Shot on location THEATRE AT SOLAIRE

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