Students tackle mature roles in ‘Miss Saigon’

The musical is playing now at the MACC

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Photo by Faith Owan

MAPA's 'Miss Saigon' cast members take a bow at the end of their last run-through of the musical play before their closing run this weekend, August 22-24, at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center.

Tonight is the beginning of the end for the musical Miss Saigon, which will be closing at the end of this weekend at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center.

Director David Johnston said Miss Saigon is “basically a love story that’s set in the context of the Vietnam War.”

Several Kamehameha Maui students — including juniors Ashlyn-Jade “Hi’ilei” Aniban and Aeris Joseph-Takeshita, senior Savannah Lawrence and alumnus Shane Borge (ʻ14) — are cast in the show, a production of the Maui Academy of Performing Arts as part of their MAPA Live! program.

The MACC listing for this show said, “This haunting and heart-wrenching love story of a Vietnamese bar girl and an American Marine during the fall of Saigon is a triumph of popular theater. With 45 performers and a live 21-piece orchestra,Miss Saigon explodes with the sweep and passion of opera couched in the gritty musical vernacular of our own time.”

This page also states that the play contains sexual themes and mature subject matter, something that had to be considered when casting teenagers.

Johnston said, “The subject matter…it’s edgy. It’s sexual, and it has all those things going on in it, so it was important to have people who were comfortable with it, and whose families were comfortable with it.”

Joseph-Takeshita said, “I love it. I think it’s great for me to experience it this young because it doesn’t really get any better than this. Miss Saigon is so…it’s ‘wow.’ I’ll just say that. It’s so big, and it’s so bold, and it’s like a Broadway production–give or take a few things–but it’s a great experience for me.”

Though the play deals with material for mature audiences, the student actors get a chance to broaden their theatrical experiences by appearing in outside-of-school productions.

“With community theater you’re surrounded with a bunch of people that are professionals. That’s their livelihood: acting and being in musicals and stuff like that. When you’re doing school productions it’s more like everyone’s learning, everyone’s amateur, which is okay, but you get the feel that’s more professional when you’re in a community theater,” Aniban said. “I believe when you surround yourself with people who are better than you, that’s how you learn the most.”

Joseph-Takeshita also said, “Community productions have more complexity to it, where there’s bigger set pieces, there’s bigger theaters, there’s bigger audiences.”

There is still a chance to be a part of that audience. Miss Saigon will have one more evening show tomorrow, August 23 at 7:30 p.m., and it closes its run with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, August 24. Tickets range from $15-65, and student discounts are available as well as pre-show food service in the theaterʻs courtyard.