Story/photo by Casey Lessard
Lovers brought together by the Vietnam war bring a tragic turn to the Huron Country Playhouse’s next production, Miss Saigon. While most of the fare on display this summer has been upbeat entertainment, the tragic love story of Miss Saigon is a must-see, says director and choreographer David Connolly.
“The cast is extraordinary,” Connolly says. “I’ve been working here for 25 years and this cast is the most talented group you could hope to ever have. The lead female is former Canadian Idol finalist Elena Juatko and she’s everything that Kim should be: naïve and strong and smart. And Steve who’s playing her lover, the male lead has been on Broadway as Marius in Les Mis and did a national tour of Little Women, so he has this unbelievable résumé too. The rest of the résumés span every festival. I taught Frank Anton Howard (who plays the Engineer) at Sheridan College years ago. I reconnected with him to find out that he had played this role through out America and won an Ovation award for his Los Angeles portrayal of it. He’s for the first time back in Canada to play the part. The talent here in this theatre for these two and half weeks is collectively as good as it would be in any theatre in North America this summer.”
Based on the opera Madame Butterfly, Miss Saigon is the story of the foreigner going to a foreign land and falling in love. In this case, the love story involves an American soldier and Vietnamese girl during the Vietnam War.
“There are really interesting and dark and meaningful themes. It deals with these themes that are so close to home on top of this heart wrenching love story. It’s too thought-provoking for you to not leave having had some kind of catharsis.”
The play, considered an epic musical, deals with serious themes but should appeal to any audience that loves theatre and drama.
“We have actors that are fully committed to telling it in an authentic way. We have to honour the men who fought in that war. We have to honour the children who are orphaned by that war. All these themes are all the way through it. But at the heart of it is a love story. It doesn’t matter where that love story took place whether it’s Vietnam or the South Pacific or England. The fact is that these two people – desperate people in desperate times – fell in love and got ripped apart so everyone can identify with that. Everyone can identify with having a love that, for whatever reason, couldn’t be. Regardless of who you are, you get to identify with the fact that, ‘Oh yeah, I was in love once and it didn’t work out.’ These two lovers should have been together forever but weren’t and I think we’ve all been there.
“I’ve worked with lots of casts and for me this is the one I want to get up and rehearse every morning joyfully with. That’s a testament to the people that put this together and to the support we’re getting from sound, carpentry, lights, costumes. The women have 10 costume changes in the course of this musical, which is kind of unheard of. Everyone has pushed their boundaries to support this size of this show. Come see how they did it.”