The long-running mega-musical Miss Saigon is coming to Sydney, with its timeless story of race and sacrifice set in the final days and aftermath of the Vietnam War.
Juan Jackson, an openly gay actor who plays John, an American G.I., had never seen Boublil and Sch?rg’s modern adaptation of the classic opera Madam Butterfly before he signed up, but fell in love with his character’s strength.
Everyone is walking around in these military get-ups, and being completely over-the-top macho, Jackson said.
I think that kind of put-on is a product of its time. People felt like they had to be rah rah, to be tough, to get out alive.
John is one of those guys who starts in that place and ends up in a completely different place. It’s all about having that experience that changes your life for the better.
After the war, and knowing his friend has fathered a child to a Vietnamese girl, John devotes himself to aid work for the children conceived during the war and left behind.
I wanted to tell that story. Not just about the numbers, but also the people behind them. What went on in that man’s life to come up with that song? Jackson wondered.
American-born Jackson began his career in opera and musical theatre, a long way from the suffering in Vietnam, but found himself moved by the documentary My Khmer Heart about child abandonment after the war.
Some people think that stories like this should be told without laughter, but the greatest gift that directors can give a production is to have balance and accuracy, Jackson said.
This production has greater emphasis on historical background and honesty of the characters. he said, rather than let everything be overpowered by the sets.
Miss Saigon opens at the Lyric Theatre, Star City, on 20 September. Tickets start from $57, available at www.ticketmaster.com.au or 131 415.

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