Popular musical finally to make Korean debutThe musical “Miss Saigon” has matured into much more than a modern interpretation of “Madame Butterfly” since its debut in 1989 in the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London. A melodramatic love story between an American GI, Chris, and a Vietnamese woman, Kim, who is forced into prostitution after her family’s death during the war, as well as a real helicopter on stage (although the Korean show will substitute a three-dimensional video display for the helicopter), the visual spectacle of the show has captured audiences for more than two decades.
The musical has played in 19 countries, with total profits of 950 million pounds ($1.7 billion). It has also won 29 major awards, including three Tony Awards, four Drama Desk Awards and one Theatre World Award.
Considering the musical’s global popularity, it is surprising that the show is coming to Korea for the first time this year. The performances will feature Korean-American actor Mike Lee as Chris and Korean actresses Kim A-Sun and Kim Bo-kyung sharing the role of Kim. The roles in the Korean debut were fiercely contested, with more than 1,600 applicants auditioning for 10 hours daily, over two weeks.
The epic, east-meets-west story is set during the 1970s, during and after the Vietnam War. While stationed in Vietnam, Chris meets Kim in a brothel in Saigon. They fall in love but are forced to separate amidst the chaos of the war.
Around the central romance, the subplots, involving a Vietnamese pimp named Tran (also referred to as “the engineer”) whose hopes of an American dream are shattered by the post-war Communist government of Vietnam, and Thuy, Kim’s other love interest who characterizes the importance of tradition and Vietnamese order, add rich layers to the core plot.
The modern adaptation of Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly,” created by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, was partly inspired by a magazine photograph Mr. Schonberg saw of a Vietnamese mother and child leaving Tan Son Nhat Airport to go to America.
by Cho Jae-eun
“Miss Saigon” is at the Seongnam Art Center through August 20 and at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts from September 1 to October 1. Weekday shows are at 8 p.m. and weekend performances at 2 and 7 p.m. (No performance on Mondays). Tickets range from 40,000 to 100,000 won. For more information, visit www.cmikorea.co.kr or call (02) 518-7343.