Monday, June 21, 2010

The Road to Saigon, Miss Saigon and Filipinas

To portray Vietnamese women, Go to the Philippines
The title, Road to Saigon, caught my attention.  I thought, oh my, the last show of the season at East West Players in Los Angeles is about Miss Saigon.  In actuality, it was rather about how all these women got to play the character of Kim after Lea Salonga's tenure as Kim.  One thing I did realize is that all of the women were Filipino, not Vietnamese.  Lea Salonga was a child star in the Philippines with a strong track record of hits and TV shows.  Below is her audition for the part.

In fact, I began to wonder if Kim was a name that was Vietnamese.  Well, that doesn't matter.  No one can tell the difference right?  Ultimately, I think a key factor is an inability for some Americans to make any sort of differentiations between Asians.  But this issue could become a subject of an entire blog, but it isn't my focus.  I get mistaken for being Filipino sometimes. Regardless, the role of Kim allowed an Asian Pacific American to perform for the first time in some pretty nice gigs.  

After watching the vocal performances in The Road to Saigon, I now know why Miss Saigon succeeded.  It was due to the quality of the performers.  Objectively, they were all very good.  This musical production felt like it was talk story meets musical format.  Each of the women would explain how they got one of the choicest and perhaps one of the most controversial roles in American Musical Theater as far as Asian American Studies people are concerned.  As a musical, it is completely different than Miss Saigon.  It was more of an inspection of their own lives in terms of getting roles and getting through auditions.  The fact that the role opened up doors for these actresses is unquestioned.  What I think is clear is that a female APA is probably going to have a better shot at something than a male APA.  There are no roles like Kim for an APA male.  In essence in America, if you are a hot APA actress, you got a shot.   It also seems that to be a Broadway female vocalist, being a Pinoy is an asset.