When the global theatre musical sensation “Miss Saigon” is mentioned, Filipinos feel they have plenty to be proud about it. That is understandable seeing how a number of Filipina actresses and singers have been part of its stellar main cast. No more introductions are necessary for the originator of the titular “Miss Saigon” character Kim, Miss Lea Salonga herself. Many others from the country have followed her footsteps since then. We have had Joanna Ampil, Eva Noblezada, Rachelle Ann Go and even Jon Jon Briones. Now, a new name will soon be added to that list of Philippine theatrical pride.
CNN Philippines reports that R&B singer and actress Aicelle Santos will be the latest Filipina cast member to join the “Miss Saigon” musical, which is currently on a UK and Ireland tour. The news was confirmed by Aicelle’s manager Carlo Orosa, elaborating that she will be assuming the role of Gigi Van Tranh from her immediate predecessor in the role, Korean actress Na-Young Jeon. It should be noted that she is also following in the footsteps of a fellow Filipina, as Rachelle Ann Go also portrayed Gigi in the 2014 West End revival of “Miss Saigon”, about four years ago.
Orosa notes that Aicelle is “thrilled, excited and in high spirits” following her casting in the long enduring musical. “Miss Saigon” is a major leap in the 33-year-old singer’s career in musical theatre, which has been cemented in the Philippines with roles in local hits such as “Himala: Isang Musikal” and “Rak of Aegis”. She is now set to depart for Manchester, UK on the third week of March. There Aicelle will immediately plunge into intensive training and rehearsals. She will also be accompanied by fellow Filipino performers Red Concepcion and Gerald Santos, who respectively play the Engineer and Thuy.
“Miss Saigon” is a musical masterwork by composer Claude-Michel Schönberg and lyricist Alain Boublil, the tandem who created “Les Miserables”. Its first run was in 1989 at London’s West End, where Lea Salonga became an international star. The musical is a modernized version of the Puccini opera “Madame Butterfly”, detailing the abandonment of a naïve yet faithful Asian woman by her American lover. The story is transposed from early 20th Century Japan to Vietnam both during and after the Vietnam War, and tells of the unexpected and bittersweet romance between reluctant Saigon nightclub dancer Kim and Chris, an American GI.
Aicelle Santos’s character of Gigi Van Tranh is a fellow dancer of Kim’s and a veteran at the Saigon nightclub run by The Engineer, who initially is mean to the rookie Kim but eventually warms up to her after seeing the connection between Kim and Chris.
Photo courtesy of inquirer.net