London revival of "Miss Saigon" heading for U.S. movie theaters prior to B'way opening
NEW YORK >> American audiences will get the rare chance to catch a sneak peek of the new "Miss Saigon" before it opens on Broadway next spring. They just have to go to a movie theater.
A filmed version of the musical's live 25th-anniversary celebration in London will make its world premiere on some 175 U.S. movie theaters on Sept. 22, some six months before the same production with the same leading actors lands on Broadway.
The show captured the performance at the Prince Edward Theatre in London's West End in September 2014 and was augmented by close-ups recorded a few months after the show closed there earlier this year.
The same cast — Jon Jon Briones as The Engineer, Eva Noblezada as Kim and Alistair Brammer as Chris — are slated to star when the show opens at the Broadway Theatre in March, but mega-producer Cameron Mackintosh isn't worried the broadcast will cannibalize fans.
"It encourages business," he said. "This is the greatest cinematic trailer for a theatrical production that's ever been produced. I could be wrong, but I defy anybody who loves the show and isn't bowled over by the film not to want to go."
"Miss Saigon," a tragic Vietnam War love story inspired by Giacomo Puccini's opera "Madame Butterfly," has songs by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, who also wrote "Les Miserables."
Mackintosh said he didn't initially plan for a broadcast version of "Miss Saigon," but was persuaded to capture the 25th anniversary of its West End arrival with a dozen cameras. A special finale was added that featured the original stars Jonathan Pryce, Lea Salonga and Simon Bowman — as well as Mackintosh making a surprise appearance.
He considered it one of the top three performances of "Miss Saigon" in its history. "Beyond just it being a wonderful performance, there was a sense of magic in the air," he said. (As for Mackintosh himself, "I bounce around like an irrepressible ball.")
He and his team decided to add documentary footage and fold in close-ups shot later. They reminded viewers it was a live event by not digitally removing the performers' microphones and layering in shots of the audience going into the theater and their reactions at some scenes.
"What producer in his lifetime gets the chance to do a great show twice with two brilliant companies in two different productions? Not many people have ever had that opportunity," said Mackintosh.
The final result is presented by Fathom Events, Universal Pictures and Picturehouse Entertainment. American audiences will see the same production from London directed by Laurence Connor and with its three stars. "They're seeing what they're going to get," Mackintosh said.
When the revival finally arrives on Broadway, it will join other Mackintosh-produced works like "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Cats," which returned this summer. (It will have missed his latest revival of "Les Miserables," which closes next month after 2½ years.)
"Thirty years on, to have my four great musicals of that era still firing on all cylinders is amazing," he said. "I'm as enthusiastic about these great shows now as I was when I helped create them all those decades ago because, to me, they smell as if they're absolutely freshly minted."
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