Miss Saigon is a must-see, so get your tickets By Casey Lessard
“That’s exactly what happened,” says Dave Nguyen, a Vietnamese refugee who has just come out of the Huron Country Playhouse’s opening night performance of Miss Saigon. “There was no future for us or our children,” the Kitchener resident says. “We lived under Communism for five years. We moved to Bangkok, Thailand (as do the characters in the play). We went three days by boat. I almost lost my daughter and wife in the ocean. We lived in a refugee camp. “Every action Elena did is what happened to the Vietnamese people.” “I was so happy he liked it,” said Elena Juatco, the Canadian Idol finalist who plays the lead role of Kim. “It gives you validation. It makes you feel like you’re doing something incredible with the show. Miss Saigon was the first time I saw an Asian woman on stage portraying such a beautiful role. That’s around the time I fell in love with the theatre and wanted to do this as a living.” Juatco’s character is a farm girl desperate for money near the end of the Vietnam war. She moves to Saigon and on her first night as a prostitute meets Chris, an American soldier. “(Director) David (Connolly) said, ‘Remember, this is a love story set in Vietnam. We’re telling a love story,’” says Stephen Patterson, who portrays Chris. “The amount of information that you’re getting from Vietnam, then to find love in a world like that is incredible. To relive that night after night – it breaks my heart. It’s pretty wild.” Chris and Kim are separated during the fall of Saigon, and a child is born, unbeknownst to Chris. “I have to say, it’s been one of the biggest highlights of my career so far,” says Lee Siegel, who is powerful as John, the man who links the lead characters together and promotes a reunion. His song (accompanied by the ensemble) about abandoned children of such unions is outstanding. “It’s based on something that’s real,” Juatco says. “What people went through is unimaginable. It’s what brings us to tears every night. It’s what makes us keep going when we’re exhausted” “I think the important thing in the midst of all this singing and dancing is people forget that we’re singing because we’re trying to tell a story,” says Frank-Anton Howard, who has won awards in America for his role of The Engineer. “With the other productions that I’ve done before you get lost in the pageantry of it, the Cadillacs and helicopters. You don’t have the luxury here. You’re forced to do a different take on it.” Connolly’s interpretation of the play for the Playhouse stage makes it one of the best productions the Huron Country Playhouse has ever produced. Miss Saigon makes you wonder why anyone would drive to Toronto to see a play for twice the price (or more). Drayton Entertainment has never done anything as ambitious and they have succeeded in setting a new standard for theatre in this community. “It’s something that you know people can connect to in their own way and they have their own memories,” Patterson says. “I would love to tell this over and over. It’s such a great, sad, beautiful story.” “Thirty-two years later,” Dave Nguyen says, “the story’s still going on.” The story won’t last forever on the stage, however. There are only a few days left to see Miss Saigon at the Huron Country Playhouse, and based on the quality of the production, there is no excuse for an empty seat in the house. Grab a friend and get tickets before the show ends this weekend.