With the resounding success of the page-to-stage-to-screen adaptation of LES MISERABLES in movie theaters this week - having already grossed more than $100 million since its Christmas Day debut, making it the biggest opening ever in movie musical history - the eyes of many entertainment enthusiasts are on mega-producer Cameron Mackintosh as to what he will do next onscreen for a follow-up, as the box office receipts begin to pile up and award nominations are given. More than a merely spurious notion, his next project seems to be set in stone should LES MISERABLES journey on to mega-hit movie musical status (and it very well might) - according to Mackintosh in a recent promotional interview with the UK Telegraph, if the film version of LES MIZ actually breaks the half-billion mark he will indeed proceed to produce a film adaptation of another Boublil/Schonberg hit mega-musical from the 1980s that he originally presented to the world onstage - the wartorn Vietnam-set, MADAME BUTTERFLY-inspired MISS SAIGON. While the film adaptation of LES MISERABLES directed by Tom Hooper has virtually set a new standard insofar as the realism and grittiness achievable in a modern movie musical - coming explicitly as a result of the entirely live, onset singing; as well as the extended, extreme POV shots utilized to masterful effect and the overall stoic tone achieved by Hooper and company throughout - MISS SAIGON touches upon much more recent history and thus explores themes and topics much closer to home for many of us in the audience, to say nothing of the story itself, which largely concerns an American GI and his doomed romance with a bar girl in the last days of Saigon before it falls and Ho Chi Minh City rises, as well as the attendant resulting effects on the lives of those most intimate with them (Chris's friend and fellow GI, John, as well as his understanding wife, Ellen; Kim's conservative cousin, Thuy; plus, idealistic bar worker, Gigi).
Then, there is the seedy and slimy master of ceremonies - the Engineer - who sets the tragic (and sporadically comic) wheels in motion and greases up the cogs of the dramatic motor on more than one occasion - and stops the show cold for a knock-out fantasy sequence shortly before the final denouement, too. The casting possibilities for the four central male roles - The Engineer, Chris, John and Thuy - provide unique and compelling characters for the more capable singing actors amongst the vastly talented flock on Broadway and in Hollywood who could potentially more than fill the fatigues and fill out the leisure suits or uniforms necessary for those roles, but what about the titular leading lady at the center of it all? Well, Mackintosh apparently has already got that covered - as BroadwayWorld reported and provided an exclusive first look (available here), as a matter of fact - since preliminary casting for the role has apparently already begun in one form or another, with first auditions being held for the role of Kim in Manila, Philippines, just a few weeks ago - though that was reportedly exclusively for a future theatrical mounting (a 2014 West End revival, perhaps?) and not yet for the film.
Yet, thanks to the boffo box office of LES MISERABLES internationally so far, MISS SAIGON could very well arrive just in time for Christmas 2013 if all continues to go this well, so now is just as good a time to speculate on the logistics as any until we know more. The heat is on!
The Movie In His Mind
So, today, let's look at the rich history and most memorable performances that have made MISS SAIGON one of the most enduring and beloved musicals of the modern era and assess the features of the exceedingly gripping and heartbreaking tale that seemingly make it an ideal fit for a feature film treatment by Mackintosh and company in the very near future. Furthermore: who to direct? Who to cast? Who to star?
First up, witness what all the fuss was about and experience a star being born before your very eyes - MISS SAIGON composer Claude-Michel Schonberg meets and then teaches an impossibly young Lea Salonga one of the score's most celebrated duets, "Sun And Moon", for the very first time.
See Lea's first big audition for the creative team - including lead producer Cameron Mackintosh and the rest - in this clip from the behind-the-scenes video THE MAKING OF MISS SAIGON in which she brings a preternatural understanding and palpable passion to the towering Act One Finale, "I'd Give My Life For You".
Experience the star-making real-life story coming full-circle with this clip from the 1991 Tony Awards where Lea Salonga takes home the trophy for Best Actress In A Musical for her iconic work in MISS SAIGON. A star is born - and she is shining just as brightly to this very day!
Lea Salonga joins Broadway and SMASH star Will Chase in a lavish Manila production of MISS SAIGON in 2000, which thankfully now lives on on YouTube. Sample their "Sun And Moon".
Lea Salonga and Claire Moore - who originated the featured role of John's American wife, Ellen - perform one of MISS SAIGON's most effective and evocative musical numbers, "I Still Believe", here on a 1989 UK TV program, WOGAN.
Following that, from the same WOGAN show, original West End John, stage and screen actor Peter Polycarpou, performs the second act opener of MISS SAIGON, the anthemic and all-too thematically pertinent "Bui Doi".
Original West End Chris, simon bowman, joins Lea Salonga for their sexy, solo saxophone-accented duet, "The Last Night Of The World", on a vintage Royal Variety Show tribute to Cameron Mackintosh.
While simon bowman essayed the part of Chris in the West End and Willy Falk did it on Broadway, stage and screen standout John Barrowman made an early mark with his moving portrayal of the tortured character. Hear his "Why God Why?" here and hear why many claim he may very well have been the best Chris of them all. Yet, who is right for the film version?
Experience the epic overture for the show - beginning with those unmistakable helicopter blades as they furiously whir around us, over us and beyond - as heard on the sumptuously produced complete symphonic recording of MISS SAIGON.
Set your sights on the striking world of MISS SAIGON as rendered in this collection of B-roll footage from the original Broadway production, which also featured Liz Callaway and Hinton Battle in addition to West End leads Lea Salonga and Jonathan Pryce.
Lea Salonga is joined by fellow InDepth InterView participant, Australian stage superstar David Campbell, in this clip from the spectacular Cameron Mackintosh tribute HEY, MR. PRODUCER, available on video on DVD - and a must-see, once-in-a-lifetime concert like few others. Take in the duet, along with the rest of the stupendous MISS SAIGON medley, below.
A ravishing and alluring cut song from the score, take the time to experience Lea Salonga singing the regretfully replaced gem "Too Much For One Heart", in concert.
Recent competitor on THE VOICE and a Broadway star in his own right, here is Tony Vincent lending his thrilling instrument to the score of MISS SAIGON on an episode of the Asian TV program MUSICAL MOMENTS with "Sun And Moon".
Since no MISS SAIGON clip collection would be complete without the show's most famous song, here is "The American Dream" as originally performed by the one and only Jonathan Pryce at the 1991 Tony Awards. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to erase the memory of this performance, no matter what sure-to-be stalwart takes on the role in the film! Classic.
Relive Jonathan Pryce's rapturous ovation as he takes home the 1991 Tony Award for Best Actor In A Musical. "101 Things To Do With A Used Cadillac," and so very, very much more!
As a special bonus, enjoy original MISS SAIGON lead Lea Salonga playing the role of Fantine in the LES MISERABLES 25th Anniversary at the 02 arena and singing that score's memorable standard, "I Dreamed A Dream".
The American Dream
So, who is the ideal film director for a politically volatile, hot button-pushing, gritty, dark, sung-through musical tragedy such as MISS SAIGON? PRECIOUS director Lee Daniels is purportedly at the top of the list, though Oliver Stone has supposedly expressed interest and original SAIGON stage director Nicholas Hytner is a solid film director in his own right, so anything seems possible right now insofar as Mackintosh's myriad choices are concerned. Or, who knows, what about a re-teaming with LES MIZ helmer, Oscar-winner Tom Hooper? The possibilities are evidently quite seemingly endless. One could say the same for the countless individuals who could make magic out of the troubled souls that populate this story and make some magnificent music of it all in the process, as well. So many great picks! My top casting ideas: Jake Gyllenhaal or Eddie Redmayne as Chris? Amanda Seyfried as Ellen? Aaron Tveit as John? Hugh Jackman, Robert Downey Jr. or Ken Watanabe as The Engineer? Darren Criss as Thuy? Who would you cast in each of those roles? No matter what, it seems clear at this point that Kim must be someone totally new, though GLEE notable and InDepth InterView participant Charice could certainly be a choice candidate! With a musical that has as much to say - and sing - to a modern audience as MISS SAIGON (or LES MISERABLES, for that matter), some incredible casting could very well take place and make even more out of the dramatically dense and musically diverse material than we have ever seen onstage before; look no further than LES MIZ for proof that that is achievable.
But, how exactly to do that nifty helicopter effect (or match its impact) in a movie, though? Well, if anyone could figure out a way, it would be Mr. Mackintosh.
First, though, let's see how high LES MISERALES can fly in movie theaters around the world - and, in 2013, the appointed hour may then very well come for MISS SAIGON. Till then, though, it will remain the movie in our minds.