Lea to 'Pinoy contingent' in 'Saigon': Support each other

by Miguel Dumaual, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jan 24 2014 06:39 PM | Updated as of Jan 25 2014 03:36 AM

Original 'Miss Saigon' cast member Lea Salonga. ABS-CBN

MANILA - Lea Salonga, who led the cast of "Miss Saigon" in its original West End production in 1989, has given words of advice for the batch of Filipino talents joining the highly anticpated revival of the well-loved musical in May.

The Kapamilya singer talked about about the updated Cameron Mackintosh production shortly after a press conference held Wednesday for "Do You Hear the People Sing?", a touring show celebrating the works of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, which will stage its Manila stop at Resorts World Manila's Newport Performing Arts Theater on January 29 and 30.

"Count your blessings, take lots of pictures, enjoy the whole process and make friends. For the entire Pinoy contingent, support each other," Salonga said, when asked for her advice for the Filipino cast members of the "Miss Saigon" revival. "Be each other's best cheerleader, because you're all away from home, you're all embarking on this very similar journey together as a group."

Aside from Rachelle Ann Go, who will play hardened bar girl Gigi, Filipinos in the updated play include Jonjon Briones as The Engingeer, and Julia Abueva and Tanya Manalang, who will reportedly be covering for half-Filipino Eva Noblezada in the role of Kim.

"The entire cast has to be one unified front to tell this story," Salonga said. "Hindi pwedeng magbaklas-baklas ang grupo. You really have to be a unified unit to tell the story well."

"It makes from a much easier relationship backstage, because the show is so heavy. Mabigat siyang gawin, eh. It's vocally heavy, it's physically demanding. You have to keep it light behind the scenes," she added.

Based on the on Giacomo Puccini's popular opera "Madame Butterfly," the musical centers on Kim, a 17-year-old Vietnamese bar girl who falls in love with an American solider during the fall of Saigon.

It premiered at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London on September 20, 1989 with Salonga and 13 other Filipinos, including Monique Wilson, Isay Alvarez, Robert Sena, Pinky Amador, Michael Williams and Junix Inocian.

"It's going to be a very different experience from ours," Salonga said, referring to the 2014 revival, which she said will feature updated lyrics. "The lucky thing lang about this is may template na, eh. Nagka-'Miss Saigon' na 10 years ago, there are so many productions that have been staged. So parang there's something to work off of already."

"Sa amin, flying blind eh. We were learning everything from zero. And after learning something from zero, magiging zero ulit if they decide, 'Ay, it's not working.' Nakakaloka! You're really going to go insane. At least, may structure na ang show," she said.

The "Miss Saigon" revival, which will open on May 3 at The Prince Edward Theatre in London, is the first Mackintosh-led production of the play since its Broadway shows closed in 2001.

According to the "Miss Saigon" official website, the musical has been performed in 25 countries and 246 cities and has been translated into 12 different languages.