UK tour of Miss Saigon. Photo: Johan Persson
UK tour of Miss Saigon. Photo: Johan Persson
Tragic love storyA fresh perspective to this timeless story

Where heartache and hope intertwine

Miss Saigon has been captivating audiences since it first premiered in 1989. A haunting story with a magical musical score, it’s once again set to transport audiences to Vietnam with a new production premiering at Sydney Opera House. Jessica Abelsohn looks at the musical’s journey.

Main image by UK tour of Miss Saigon. Photo: Johan Persson

Miss Saigon has captivated audiences around the world with its compelling story and unforgettable music. The musical, written by the talented Jewish duo Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, delivers a poignant narrative set during the Vietnam War.

Set against the backdrop of the fall of Saigon in 1975, Miss Saigon tells the tragic love story of an American GI named Chris and a Vietnamese girl named Kim. The musical explores themes of love, loss, sacrifice and the enduring impact of war on individuals caught in its grip. Drawing inspiration from Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly, Boublil and Schonberg highlight the complexities of relationships and the devastating consequences of war.

As the story goes, the musical was inspired by a photograph, showing a mother leaving her child at a departure gate to board a plane to the US, where her father, an ex-GI, would be able to give her a better life. Schonberg happened to see it in a magazine, considering the mother’s actions to be the “ultimate sacrifice” – handing over her child in the hopes she could be given a better life. It became a central idea to the plot of Miss Saigon.

Since its premiere in 1989, Miss Saigon has been seen by more than 38 million people worldwide. The production originally premiered in London’s West End before moving to Broadway, where it ran for a decade. It has been translated into 15 languages, and has won numerous awards including two Olivier Awards, three Tony Aways and four Drama Desk Awards.

Miss Saigon was first staged in Australia in 1996, produced by Cameron Mackintosh and directed by Laurence Connor.

Now, it’s coming back, taking the stage at the iconic Sydney Opera House, again produced by Mackintosh and directed by Connor. The upcoming production promises to bring a fresh perspective to this timeless story while staying true to its emotional core. And in a touching full-circle, Opera Australia has also produced Madama Butterfly as part of its 2023 season.

UK tour of Miss Saigon. Photo: Johan Persson

“We believe this to be the first time any one company in the world has produced both these seminal pieces of 20th-century performance in the same year, so that audiences can appreciate both their similarities and differences,” Opera Australia CEO Fiona Allan said. “Both are haunting stories with brilliant musical scores, set in very different periods in time. Miss Saigon is a powerful and moving story, which, like Madama Butterfly, looks at the complex nature of love, while set against the destruction and violence of war, and examining the aftermath it leaves. What I find particularly exciting is to see this story now told by an Australian cast – which will really showcase the depth of Asian-Australian talent we have in this country.”

The cast includes 18-year-old Abigail Adriano, playing Kim, who told The Daily Telegraph it’s a dream come true.

Having seen Filipina singer Lea Salonga – the woman who pioneered the role of Kim – perform at the Opera House in 2017, Adriano told her mum that she was going to perform on the same stage one day.

“I still can’t believe that I’ve been able to land such a dream role. I never thought this could become a reality,” she said. “The music is absolutely magnificent in the Opera House. It’s just a different quality. This show is such a hit in the Philippines. Not only because of Lea Salonga, but even more so because it represents the struggles of a lot of Asian women who went through this [period].”

The cast of Opera Australia’s 2023 production of Miss Saigon. Photo: Daniel Boud

The show, of course, wouldn’t be the production it is without the story and music by Boublil and Schonberg, who have very much established themselves as prolific collaborators in the world of musical theatre. But according to the duo, they actually started in pop music. Thank goodness Boublil saw West Side Story when it toured France, as it was while watching that production that he realised how incredible musical theatre could be.

Time and time again, audiences have fallen in love with the pair’s music – when it comes to Miss Saigon, one cannot go past I’d Give My Life For You, sung by Kim to her son – and this production will prove no exception.

Miss Saigon is poised to once again transport audiences into a world where heartache and hope intertwine, reminding us of the enduring power of theatre to touch our souls and inspire empathy for the struggles of others.

Miss Saigon will be at the Sydney Opera House from August 17. For more and tickets, visit

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