Miss Saigon with Mike Zarate

In this episode, we chat with Mike Zarate about which of life's lessons can be learned from Boubil and Schonberg's second opus - Miss Saigon!

"THERE may never have been a musical that made more people angry before its Broadway debut than "Miss Saigon."

Here is a show with something for everyone to resent -- in principle, at least. Its imported stars, the English actor Jonathan Pryce and the Filipino actress Lea Salonga, are playing roles that neglected Asian-American performers feel are rightfully theirs. Its top ticket price of $100 is a new Broadway high, sprung by an English producer, if you please, on a recession-straitened American public. More incendiary still is the musical's content. A loose adaptation of "Madama Butterfly" transplanted to the Vietnam War by French authors, the "Les Miserables" team of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, "Miss Saigon" insists on revisiting the most calamitous and morally dubious military adventure in American history and, through an unfortunate accident of timing, arrives in New York even as the jingoistic celebrations of a successful American war are going full blast.

So take your rage with you to the Broadway Theater, where "Miss Saigon" opened last night, and hold on tight. Then see just how long you can cling to the anger when confronted by the work itself. For all that seems galling about "Miss Saigon" -- and for all that is indeed simplistic, derivative and, at odd instances, laughable about it -- this musical is a gripping entertainment of the old school (specifically, the Rodgers and Hammerstein East-meets-West school of "South Pacific" and "The King and I"). Among other pleasures, it offers lush melodies, spectacular performances by Mr. Pryce, Miss Salonga and the American actor Hinton Battle, and a good cry. Nor are its achievements divorced from its traumatic subject, as cynics might suspect. Without imparting one fresh or daring thought about the Vietnam War, the show still manages to plunge the audience back into the quagmire of a generation ago, stirring up feelings of anguish and rage that run even deeper than the controversies that attended "Miss Saigon" before its curtain went up." - By Frank Rich










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