'Miss Saigon' Cast Share Thoughts Ahead Of Manila Premiere

Members of Miss Saigon’s Manila run, along with co-creator and composer Claude-Michel Schönberg, talk about the musical’s significance before its premiere.

Cast members of Miss Saigon recently joined the press in a special media event gearing up for the musical’s grand premiere in Manila. The group included key players like leading lady Abigail Adriano (who plays Kim), leading man Nigel Huckle (who plays Chris), Seann Miley Moore (as the ambitious Engineer), Laurence Mossman (who plays Thuy), and Kiara Dario (a homegrown talent who plays Kim’s fellow bar girl, Gigi). 

L-R: Kiara Dario, Nigel Huckle, Abigail Adriano, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Laurence Mossman, and Seann Miley Moore
L-R: Kiara Dario, Nigel Huckle, Abigail Adriano, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Laurence Mossman, and Seann Miley Moore

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Renowned composer and co-creator of Miss Saigon, Claude-Michel Schönberg, also graced the event with his calm presence and insightful anecdotes. GMG Productions—the company responsible for bringing hit international productions to the country—treated members of the press to two powerful excerpts from the upcoming musical (complete with a live orchestra). These were Kim’s heart-wrenching song of motherhood I’d Give My Life for You, which Adriano sang with a fierce tenderness, and the Engineer’s hilarious American Dream, which Moore took to new heights with a vibrantly queer spin. 

After the sneak-peek performances, members of the cast and Schönberg answered some questions about the musical, including what it means to them and what they hope audiences will take away from it.

The Talent of the Filipino

Miss Saigon shares a deep connection with the Filipino community, as many of its actors were either Filipinos or of Filipino descent—the most famous example being the very first actress who played Kim, Lea Salonga. This doesn’t come as a particular surprise, considering the country’s abundance of musical talent, and how ingrained the art form is within its culture. 

During his interview with the press, Schönberg looked back at the musical’s beginnings in the 1980s. He knew he wanted to create a re-telling of Giacomo Puccini’s famous opera Madama Butterfly, and moved by real-life testimonials and occurrences he witnessed after the fall of Saigon in the 1970s, he also knew that Vietnam was where the story was meant to take place.

Claude-Michel Schönberg during the press event
Claude-Michel Schönberg during the press event

Yet searching for Asian talents was a bit of a challenge at the time, as the continent’s entertainment industry—particularly in terms of Western musical theater—wasn’t as big as it is today. Fortunately, Schönberg and his co-creator Alain Boublil struck gold when they discovered the talented singers of the Philippines. 

“I heard voices I had never heard before, beautiful singers, beautiful music,” Schönberg shared, recounting his glimpses of Filipino performers on television. “After that, I rang Cameron [Mackintosh] and said, ‘We must go and see what’s happening in the Philippines. Everything I see, musically, from the Philippines is amazing.”

The rest is history: a young Lea Salonga made her debut, marking a long career as one of the finest singers in the industry. Other Filipinos like Cocoy Laurel, Jon Jon Briones, Leo Valdez, Monique Wilson, Rachelle Anne Go, Joanna Ampil, and Carla Guevara-Laforteza have also enthralled audiences throughout the years in Miss Saigon’s various runs on West End, Broadway, and beyond. 

Representation for All

Much of the cast of Miss Saigon’s Manila run continue the legacy of those who came before them. Adriano, Moore, and Mossman are all of Filipino descent, while Dario is a proudly homegrown talent. 

Abigail Adriano: Something Entirely Hers

Adriano, who grew up in Sydney, has been dreaming about playing the role of Kim since she was younger while seeing the musical on television with her older sister. “It’s such an honor to be the second Kim performing the role in Manila since Lea Salonga,” she shared during the media event. 

The actress and singer began voice training at the age of six, studying both classical and contemporary music before starring as Alice in Tim Minchin’s Matilda the Musical, Rose in the Netflix/ABC television series The Unlisted, and Kim in the 2023 Miss Saigon Australian Tour. 

Abigail Adriano
Abigail Adriano

Adriano, like the many Kims before her, will be adding her own voice to the musical canon, giving veteran and new Miss Saigon audiences something to look forward to. 

“One thing that I can say that helped me make my own interpretation of Kim is what Cameron Mackintosh said to me the first time we actually rehearsed the show,” Adriano explained. “He literally held my face […] and said, Abby, when you do Kim, I just want to see you.”

Abigail Adriano as Kim in the Miss Saigon Australian Tour
Abigail Adriano as Kim in the Miss Saigon Australian Tour

Adriano continued: “And thanks to that, I can definitely say that when you watch the show, you will see reflections of myself within my character. I know that there have been so many interpretations, and I feel a sense of duty to bring justice to my character, to the story that I tell; but [I’m] also being true to myself.”

Seann Miley Moore: Re-engineering The Engineer 

Then there’s Seann Miley Moore, who has not only performed all over the world and in various music competitions (including Eurovision 2022 and X Factor UK 2015), but also continues to push boundaries in beauty and fashion as an ambassador to various international brands like Fenty Beauty and Jean Paul Gaultier.

Seann Miley Moore as The Engineer in the Miss Saigon Australian Tour
Seann Miley Moore as The Engineer in the Miss Saigon Australian Tour

A performer at heart, Moore possesses a commanding and charismatic presence that makes them a perfect choice for The Engineer. The performer leans into the humorous pimp’s flamboyant side, adding a queer spin to his role that’s not only reflective of the times, but also a fitting addition to the musical’s legacy.

During the press gathering, Lifestyle Asia asked Moore what their favorite part of playing The Engineer was, and how they’ve infused their unique voice into the character. “My favorite part of the show is the end of Act I, where Abigail [Adriano] takes my hand and she’s a woman in charge,” they replied. 

Seann Miley Moore as The Engineer in the Miss Saigon Australian Tour
Seann Miley Moore as The Engineer in the Miss Saigon Australian Tour

“But I always enjoy the start of the show, with all my fierce, gorgeous girls, and we take the stage in all our [sic] fabulosity,” they continued. “The Heat is On in Saigon: [there’s] nothing like it, it zips around really quick; that kind of fire and electricity just ignites the beginning.”

On a more personal level, coming to the Philippines was a meaningful chance for the performer to reconnect with their mother’s culture—and of course, spend time with her. “It’s good to be home,” they explained. “It’s the homecoming that I want.”

Laurence Mossman: Inspiring New Generations of Filipino Performers

Filipino-Kiwi Laurence Mossman was born in Auckland and made his Australian debut in Miss Saigon as Thuy, Kim’s betrothed and a member of the Northern Vietnamese Army. After graduating from the University of Otago with an honors degree in Music, Mossman moved to Manila to begin his international foray into the performing arts. His time in the country included a two-year residency at Resorts World Manila in the vocal trio Primo, before a theater debut alongside Lea Salonga in Atlantis Theatrical’s Fun Home in 2016. 

Laurence Mossman
Laurence Mossman

He also starred in other productions like the Manila run of Kinky Boots (as Charlie Price) and A Christmas Carol (as a young Ebenezer Scrooge). Now, he reprises his role as Thuy in Miss Saigon’s Manila run, showing the breadth of talent that the local theater industry cultivates.

Given how much the Philippine art scene has nurtured his gifts, Mossman places great value on representation and its ability to inspire future generations of performers. “We see so many beautiful Asian theater artists these days. And they would not be where they are without being inspired by people like Lea [Salonga] who have come before us,” he explained. 

Laurence Mossman as Thuy in the Miss Saigon Australian Tour
Laurence Mossman as Thuy in the Miss Saigon Australian Tour

“You know, I’m really excited […] about all the people in Manila who will see themselves being reflected on stage. They will be the new generation and you’ll be interviewing them in 10 to 20 years time about how they saw this production.”

Kiara Dario: A Voice for the Local Performing Arts Scene

Born and raised in the Philippines, Dario knew that she wanted to be a performer at the tender age of three, after watching (and re-watching) her grandmother’s DVD copy of Hey Mr.Producer, a concert tribute to Cameron Mackintosh’s works, including Miss Saigon

So the young performer pursued her dream, starting her training at five years old with Repertory Philippines, then the Marie Eugenie Theatre of the Assumption, and the University of the Philippines DIliman. Throughout the years, she’s been in a number of local productions like Disney’s Camp Rock musical (her debut at 14), Ang Huling El Bimbo, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Annie, and Snow White and the Prince. She was also a Philippine representative at the 2015 World Hip Hop Championships in California, and is currently a songwriter and recording artist for the self-produced Philippine pop girl group DAYDREAM. 

Kiara Dario
Kiara Dario

During the media event, she reflected on her journey, stating: “There were so many touch points that this musical had in my life, because so many of my theater mentors were Miss Saigon alumni. They brought what they learned from this production and taught it to me.”

The singer and actress also emphasized just how important it is for audiences and governments to support the local art scene. “The only reason I’m standing here today is because of the training and the amazing Philippine art that I get to live with every day,” she shared. “There are so many musicals and plays running right now. I feel like it’s the golden age of Philippine theater.”

Nigel Huckle: The Honorary Filipino

Though Huckle is New York-based Australian-American, he talked about his fondness for the Philippines during the media event. He shared that his former caretaker (when he as a young boy in Singapore) was a Filipino from Iloilo. “When I came here [in the Philippines] to do Les Misérables, we brought her from Iloilo and she came to see the show. We were reunited after almost 20 years. […] And to be back here again, we’re gonna bring her up to see the show [Miss Saigon] too.”

Nigel Huckle during the press event (bottom left-most), with the cast
Nigel Huckle during the press event (bottom left-most), with the cast

He also discussed how a former co-star who also played Kim was Filipino, and would teach him how to speak Tagalog, including counting reps in the gym. “I love being in the Philippines,” Huckle added. “Nothing beats the feeling of being back here, right in the heart of it [Miss Saigon].”

Abigail Adriano as Kim and Nigel Huckle as Chris
Abigail Adriano as Kim and Nigel Huckle as Chris

In his role as American G.I. and Kim’s love interest Chris, Huckle brings years of experience having performed across the globe in legendary productions like Les Misérables and West Side Story. He recently won a San Diego Theatre Critics’ Circle Award for his run as Fabrizio in The Light in the Piazza at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.

His other credits include Lieutenant Cable in South Pacific, Jimmy in Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Nick in the Australian premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale. 

An Ever-Relevant Story

Like many classic musicals, Miss Saigon carries a story that remains relevant in this day and age. Though cultures and attitudes change, certain situations remain the same. To Schönberg, it’s a reminder of the war-torn world we live in. Though the Vietnam War ended decades ago, other conflicts have risen and continue to drastically change the lives of people in terrible ways. 

However, while Schönberg admits that his works may seem cynical, they also carry a message of hope: that there’s some joy and even love in times of struggle, and these things are keys to a better world. 

“If we can prove that there is still love there, and by love we can save the rest of humanity, then we [Miss Saigon’s creators] will be happy,” he explained. “That’s why we’re writing that kind of story.”

Dario added her own take to this, saying: “We see Kims, and Gigis, and Engineers every day. […] I think, even if it is a period piece, it’s still so current. Each year that passes, there’s a different way that we see Miss Saigon, and that’s what’s beautiful about this show: it’s been changing for 35 years, and this version is so necessary for today’s current climate.”

Love at Its Core

Indeed, while the musical’s love story is certainly a significant plot point, it’s by no means a tale about a passive young woman. Kim is the heroine of her own narrative, embracing romance without being a damsel in distress. 

“In ‘Last Night of the World,’ we brought some lyric changes to give more agency to Kim,” Adriano explained about the production’s Manila run. “[As Kim], I am in charge of my own destiny. I am choosing to be with you [Chris] because I love you, not because I’m using you to get out of this situation. I think because we touch on these complex perspectives, the feeling of love and tragedy is much more palpable.”

Beyond this romantic relationship is the love that Kim holds for her and Chris’ child Tam, which is arguably the beating heart of the entire narrative. Like its source material Madama Butterfly, the final act is a testament to the strength of a mother’s devotion, and how much she is willing to give up for her child. “At the end, the basic sacrifice of a mother, or even a father, for their own child, is the ultimate sacrifice you can have in your life,” Schönberg explained.

Audiences will certainly be in for a treat (and an emotional rollercoaster ride) when they get to see the show themselves. As for what Schönberg hopes they take away from the experience, he shared: “If you leave the theater a little bit different than when you first entered, the job is done.”

Photos courtesy of GMG Productions.

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