Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Images of Miss Saigon: A History

The Images of Miss Saigon: a History

Miss Saigon has been wowing audiences since 1989 and is set to wow audiences at Signature in just a few weeks. But the show's genealogy goes much further back than just 1989. Here's an abbreviated history of where this wildly successful musical comes from.

In 1887, John Luther Long published a short story called "Madame Butterfly." It was the tragic love story of a US naval officer and a Japanese geisha. Above is an illustration from that short story.

Davis Belasco made the short story into a one-act (1900) which Puccini saw. This inspired him to write his opera Madame Butterfly which was first performed in 1907. The picture above is Geraldine Farrar in the title role. Below is the poster from the original production.




At the end of WWII, Vietnam was no longer occupied by Japan who had taken over the French colony when France was invaded by Germany. However, many did not want to fall back under French rule, so the communist movement led by Ho Chi Minh (above) declared Vietnam to be an independent country and went to war with France.
North Vietnam  was  recognized as a country after defeating the French. In 1955, America decided to give military aid to South Vietnam in order to prevent communism from spreading from the North to the South. The conflict would last for two decades. The above photo is from the US Army.

 In 1975, the North Vietnamese Army succeeded in marching through South Vietnam to the capitol: Saigon. The city was taken as the last US soldiers fled in helicopters. The above photo of a helicopter is an iconic image of the fall of Saigon and of the musical Miss Saigon as well.
Schönberg saw the above photo of a mother leaving her half-Vietnamese, half-American son at an airport terminal where he would go to live with his father in American. Schönberg was reportedly inspired by this image, which he considered to be the ultimate sacrifice, to write a musical.
The musical, a retelling of the Madame Butterfly story in the Vietnam War, premiered in 1989 in London. The above photo is of the original London production.


And in 2013, Signature Theatre opens their 2013/2014 season with an environmental production of Miss Saigon where the entire theatre will be transformed into 1970s Vietnam. Get your tickets here!

Interested in learning more about Signature's production of Miss Saigon? Be sure to sign up for an exclusive backstage tour of the production. Tickets are only $10. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Broadway, Here I Come

For two weeks, Alexandra, one of our amazing Overtures students, made daily note of her experiences here at Overtures. Here's her final entry! 

Signature Associate Artistic Director Matt Gardiner with the Overtures class of 2013.

Fourteen days ago, seventeen eager young artists stepped into the ARK at Signature Theatre for a first taste of what would be two exhausting and inspiring weeks. We recognized great talent in each other’s first few notes and were stunned by the grace and ease (and the drive to for that grace and ease) in the first dance class. We became fast friends and even stronger supporters, pushing each other to demand and achieve more. We learned from the best and were sponges to every suggestion, opinion, technique session, choreography phrase, posturing realignment, words of advice and encouragement.

Our final showcase this morning in front of a nearly full house in the MAX was the perfect Overtures capstone. Full of big, belted ballads, fast-footed choreography, and captivating performances, our company held nothing back. I couldn’t help but smile (and even start to tear up a little) knowing how hard we worked and how far we each had come. That troublesome double pirouette was not quite so scary. That lyric suddenly had so much more meaning than ever before. Those high notes were spot on. It was our closing number, “Song of Purple Summer” that truly gave me chills. There was a moment as we stepped downstage together that I could distinctly hear everyone in harmony - and I do not mean only musically. We were listening so intently to each other, our breaths in sync, our harmonies blending beautifully. It certainly had a least a few people in the audience reaching for their Kleenex.

It seems strange be writing this final blog entry in the middle of the afternoon instead of at 11 PM after a long day singing and dancing in the ARK and Zickler. It seems incomprehensible that tomorrow we will not all return to perform one last time together in the MAX. As I pour over my notes and listen to the recordings I took from work sessions and group music rehearsals, I am encouraged to think that it will not be long before we all see each other again – probably going together to support a fellow company member in their next show!

I cannot say enough was a true privilege it has been to learn from and work with such an amazing group of master artists, fellow company members, our intrepid education director and interns, and everyone in the Signature family. Their passion, determination, work ethic, love for musical theater and for our 2013 Overtures company has made these past two weeks an incomparable experience and one I doubt we will soon forget wherever our careers take us next. 

Night Music

For two weeks, Alexandra, one of our amazing Overtures students, made daily note of her experiences here at Overtures. 

Friday, June 28 

As we near the end of a demanding, exhausting, encouraging, and uplifting two weeks, there are few words left that will not sound too nostalgic or cliché to describe what an incredible experience Overtures 2013 has been. Few words, but “Thank you!”

With final tech preparations wrapped for our company showcase tomorrow morning, individual exit interviews with our exceptional instructors, and a chance to make personal reflections on how far we have come these past two weeks and where we will go from here, this evening’s final rehearsal was one last chance to regroup as a company before tomorrow’s performance. With the venerable Darius Smith at the piano arranging a popular, Broadway-geek-anthem, on the fly, we took on a little jam of “Empire State (Part II)” by Alicia Keyes. In under two hours, we made some truly beautiful music together.

Just as there were glimmers of excitement two weeks ago when we met and sang together for the first time, I noticed flashes of enthusiasm, glints of admiration for and appreciate of each other, and sparks of real joy. Joy that we will no doubt share on stage in tomorrow morning’s final showcase of Overtures 2013. Yay us! We make art! 


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