A Broadway blockbuster, Miss Saigon, opens Sept. 7 at Kansas City’s Starlight Theatre for a one week run through Sept. 13 and brings the updated story and modern music to the story of the opera , Madame Butterfly.
Updates are nothing new to musical theater, the 1950s West Side Story updated Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to New York City and the battle between two rival gangs. Rent, another New York-based show, likewise updated Puccini’s famous La Boehme. Kiss Me Kate, kinda updated Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew by producing a show within a show that mirrored the Bard’s famous play.
According to a Starlight spokesman, “Miss Saigon, one of the most stunning theatrical spectacles of all time, will be produced by Starlight Theatre. In Miss Saigon, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly is brought to the modern world.
In Miss Saigon, the rapid exodus of American servicemen created choas with families left behind after the withdrawal of American troups from Vietnam. As a result, war-time relationships ripped timelessly apart and half-American children remained to face world with no fathers and little money in a country that also shunned them, by regarding many of them as half Vietnamese and also half-enemies in some eyes. Miss Saigon tells the story of one such situation and a woman’s choices and motivations.
Miss Saigon is a love story about the relationship between an American GI and a young Vietnamese woman during the American occupation of Saigon during the Vietnam War. The Tony Award-winning musical was created by Claude Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, the visionaries behind Les Miserables, and features a series of sensational musical numbers including, “Why God Why?” and “The American Dream.” Miss Saigon remains the 11th longest-running Broadway musical in musical theatre history, a Starlight release said. Miss Saigon ran for years in London’s West End where it originated and played for almost two years before the Broadway debut.
“For Starlight’s production of Miss Saigon, we have assembled a stellar cast under the direction of internationally recognized artists that includes Director Fred Hanson, Music Director Kevin Stites and Choreographer Baayork Lee,” said Denton Yockey, President and Executive Producer of Starlight. “They are each established leaders in the musical theatre industry, and I cannot underscore enough what a thrill and a tremendous privilege it has been to have them in Kansas City rehearsing and preparing this production.”
Starlight Theatre is the lead producer of Miss Saigon. After opening in Kansas City, the co-production will travel to the Bushnell Theatre in Hartford, the Fisher Theatre in Detroit and the Ordway Theatre in St. Paul. Miss Saigon ends Starlight’s 2013 Broadway Season of Blockbusters.
On a local note, Kansas City native, Meggie Cansler plays Ellen the American wife of the displaced G.I. Cansler made her professional debut at Starlight Theatre in Annie at age 10. Her Broadway credits include: The Apple Tree, Wicked, Finian’s Rainbow. The U.S. tour of Wicked as Galinda. Off-Broadway credits include: Lucky Guy On TV, The Carrie Diaries. Cansler further performed in several regional theaters and finished her college with a BFA at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
“I grew up in Overland Park and attended Blue Valley high school,” Cansler said. “I preformed locally at Theatre in the Park as The title role in Cinderella, Winnifred in Once Upon a Mattress, Ariel in Footloose and Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. other community theatre projects were Blue Valley Youth Players and Music Theatre for Young people.
“Professionally , I appeared at the American Heartland Theatre as Ruby in Dames at Sea. I had the privilege of being in Starlight in Annie in 1994. It was the first show I ever did. I also performed in Will Rogers Follies, Evita, and Wizard of Oz in the children's ensemble.”
A Starlight spokesman said that the creative team for Miss Saigon includes: Director Fred Hanson who is based in New York and Rio de Janeiro. In Brazil, he has directed new production of Baby and Jekyll & Hyde. Hanson’s previous experience with Miss Saigon includes Associate Director to Nicholas Hytner on the original Broadway productions and directing his own versions for the St. Louis Muny, São Paulo and Tokyo (2004 & 2008), Starlight said.
Music Director Kevin Stites served as the Music Supervisor, Arranger and Music Director for the Broadway musical A Tale of Two Cities; the Music Supervisor and Incidental Music Composer for the Broadway musical and the national tour of The Color Purple; and the Music Director of the Broadway revival of Les Miserables, according to a Starlight press release.
Starlight’s Miss Saigon also lists Choreographer Baayork Lee who debuted on Broadway at the age of 4 as Princess Ying Yaawolak in the original production of The King and I in 1951. Lee was a member of the original 1975 Broadway cast of A Chorus Line, which won nine Tony Awards and the 1975 Pulitzer Prize. She has started her own production company, the National Asian Arts Project, in order to open theatre doors for people of Asian descent.
Starlight’s Miss Saigon includes a large cast: Charlie Brady, Katie Boren, Meggie Cansler, Andy Danh, Robyn DeGuzman, Rona Figueroa, Nkrumah Gatling, Dan Gleason, Chris Ignacio, Eric Anthony Johnson, Austin Ku, Jonny Hsu Lee, Glen Llanes, Garen McRoberts, Orville Mendoza, Shoba Narayanan, Manna Nichols, Rommel Pierre O’Choa, Alfie Parker Jr., David Raimo, Peter Romagna, Michiko Sasaki, Christopher Shin, Richard M. Steele, Viet Vo, Allen Lucky Weaver, Tyrick Wiltez Jones, Jessica Wu, Anna-Lee Wright, Minami Yusui, Arianna Yi, Sam Simahk, Yuki Ozeki and Daphne Valenta.
Other artists and staff for Starlight’s production of Miss Saigon include: Denton Yockey, Executive Producer; Kirk Bookman, Lighting Designer; Braxton Cornelius, Sound Designer; Mary Traylor; Costumer; Joanne Weaver, Wig Designer; Susan Kikuchi, Associate Choreographer; Robert Thurber, Production Stage Manager; Kent Andel, Production Manager; Caroline Lakin, Company Manager; and Randy Moreland, Head Carpenter.
Tickets to Miss Saigon are now on sale for $10 - $135. Tickets are available at kcstarlight.com, by calling 816-363-STAR (7827) or in person at Starlight Theatre, 4600 Starlight Road. Box Office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Discounted ticket prices for groups of 15 or more can be ordered by contacting Stacey Million, Starlight’s group sales manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-997-1137. All performances begin at 8 p.m.
Prior to the show, guests may dine in the VIP Club catered by Plaza Catering that includes hot custom designed buffet items, a salad selections, a veggie garden bar, desserts, and special children’s menu. Reservations may be made in advance; walk-ups are also welcome. The menu for Miss Saigon is posted at www.kcstarlight.com. Other dining options include concession stand favorites and pre-packaged salads and sandwiches on the Encore Deck.