(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/17; via Pam Green.)
“Miss Saigon” started with an audacious idea — create a musical that explores the end of the Vietnam War through an ill-fated romance between a virginal Vietnamese bargirl and a hunky American G.I.
It would become much more than that. Over 28 years, “Miss Saigon” has turned into one of the most successful hits in musical theater — as well as one of the most polarizing and most protested.
Now, it’s back on Broadway, for the first time since 2001. It is in the same theater, tells the same operatically tragic story, and again features a hovering helicopter.
But the show has changed significantly over the years, and those shifts tell another story — one about how much the controversy over “Miss Saigon” has affected the industry.
“Miss Saigon” opened in London in 1989, with an acclaimed white British actor, Jonathan Pryce, wearing prosthetics to alter the shape of his eyes and makeup to alter the color of his skin as he played the show’s leading man, a scheming Eurasian pimp called the Engineer. But by the time the show reached Broadway in 1991, Mr. Pryce had abandoned those practices, and, after he won a Tony Award and left the show, the producers changed their approach — in the years since, they have chosen only actors of Asian heritage to play the Engineer, both on Broadway and on the United States tours.