WAR’S HELL HITS HOME
The doomed romance between a Vietnamese bar girl and an American GI has captivated audiences the world over. Now Gold Coast audiences have the chance to see a local production
Brad Rush felt an emotional connection to Miss Saigon’s soundtrack long before he’d even seen the musical. Written by the composers who created Les Miserables, Brad says it’s the kind of music that tugs at heart strings.
“The soundtrack is a longtime favourite of mine – I felt an emotional connection to it,” he says.
“Musically Miss Saigon is gorgeous. But the music drives the story – there is no dialogue – so you can easily listen to the soundtrack and understand exactly what’s happening without seeing it.”
When Brad had the chance to swap creative hats – he’s usually the performing arts manager at The Arts Centre – and slip into his director shoes, he knew exactly which script he wanted to bring to life.
“It’s not a musical that’s done very often as it’s a pretty big scale technically and musically, but I believe we have the resources to pull it off,” says Brad.
“It’s proved to be quite an excellent choice – the community has rallied around it and there’s a huge buzz about the show.”
Opening at The Arts Centre Gold Coast tomorrow night, the local production of Miss Saigon stars Vivien Emsworth and Chris White as the leads alongside Tanele Storm Graham, Matt Ward, Alison McKenzie, Adam Jon, Adrian Li Donni and Ethan Yin Lan.
With an 18-piece ensemble band lead by musical director David Piper, the local production is brought to life with help from assistant director and choreographer Ellen Simpson, costume designer Jean Marashlian and set designer John Mcintosh.
A musical love story, Miss Saigon tells the tragic tale of a doomed romance between Kim, a Vietnamese bar girl orphaned by war, and Chris, an American GI.
Their lives are torn apart by the fall of Saigon.
Inspired by a single photograph, this classic story has been performed for more than 25 years in over 300 cities and 15 different languages worldwide.
“It’s a tragic story,” says Brad. “For me there are four elements – it’s about the war which was hideous, it’s about a beautiful love story but it’s also a heartbreaking love story.
“It’s also about their boy. Born as a result of this relationship, that child represents thousands of babies born to Asian women who probably had American or Australian fathers.
“Lastly it’s about the ultimate sacrifice – what would you do for your kids?”
If the audience walk out with tissues in hand, Brad feels his job is complete.
“It’s a heartbreaking story that people will connect to – and if there are tears then they have really connected to the characters,” he says.
“Ultimately as a director to have the audience fall into the journey, that means there’s a sense of realism and legitimacy about your work.
“It all sounds heavy but it is really well written, and there’s breaks and colourful numbers that help the audience have a rest from the drama.”
Brad has given Brisbanebased actor and singer Vivien Emsworth freedom to explore her character Kim.
Vivien says it’s a role she explored in her final year of university, where she was studying a Bachelor of Arts in Musical Theatre.
She has dreamt of playing the part since.
“It’s my dream role – I would be completely fulfilled as a performer to do this show for a long time,” she says.
“There’s something about it. I always find something new in the story. I don’t get sick of it.”
With the leading role requiring a lot of vocal stamina and energy – Vivien is practically singing the entire show – the star says she’s enjoying exploring the different energies and emotions of her character.
“The music is so intense and the story so moving,” she says.
“I love all the powerful bits but I also love the delicate parts.
“Kim becomes a beacon of light for Chris in this dark abysmal war.”
The cast of The Arts Centre Gold Coast's
run through their paces