The Broadway production of “Miss Saigon” is an epic story that weaves together the themes of love, hope and desperation in the face of harsh odds during the Vietnam War.
The basic synopsis revolves around a 17-year old Vietnamese girl named Kim who is forced to work at a bar in Saigon, where she eventually meets and falls in love with an American G.I. named Chris. As Saigon falls, they are separated and Kim spends years trying to find Chris, who unbeknownst to him, has a son with Kim.
Originally the show premiered in 1989 and became a revival in 2014, which added an upgraded, show stopping stage design and soaring musical performances which highlight this story set during the fall of Saigon in the end times of the Vietnam War.
One of the performers involved with this show is Fremont native Garrick Macatangay, who recently had some time to speak about the “Miss Saigon” and its ins and outs.
Macatangay originally simply enjoyed dancing throughout his life as a hobby and intended to follow through with his college career of Biology and health until the dancing bug happened to come back into his life. This ultimately led him into the world of the stage.
In the following interview he gives us an insight into his own journey and his perspective on “Miss Saigon”, which comes to the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts November 12 – 17, 2019.
Hey Chris, to start off I wanted to know how you got started in the performing arts? What was that moment where you were you realized you wanted to do this as a career?
Well it’s kind of an interesting journey. I didn’t know too much about pursuing the arts as a profession. I graduated from Berkeley with a bio major and education minor [but] I think all my life I was just dancing and performing and my family, we loved to sing, and we loved to dance, and we’d have like just family parties. So that was like our outlet for performing. And so, it was just always there even formed some dance groups with like my cousins and with some friends. So, it’s just like part of my life.
But I just never thought about pursuing it professionally. And so then, like after I’d graduated college that I met a teacher who was teaching over in San Francisco and just to beat the commute or avoid the commute back to Fremont, I would take class in the city. So, then that’s how she let me know about like the dance industry in Los Angeles.
That was kind of like my first introduction to pursuing it professionally. I got an open call audition for a dance agency and was accepted, but at the time, I was still living in the Bay Area. So, I let them know, “Oh, I’m not from here but you know, obviously, I’d be so happy [to] join the agency.” So, they’re like, “Let us know when you’re in L.A. and then we can get started.” So about six months later, I moved to L.A. and then I started performing and touring like more of the commercial dance industry before getting into theater. So, it’s not like an initial pursuit, it was just like one of those things that obviously I’d love to do but it was kind of like a roundabout way of getting there.
When you first started off, then how did you get from professional dancing to working in theater productions?
Well I did a couple of music courses in high school, but one of the first jobs I booked in L.A. was the musical called “Flower Drum Song”, and it was playing somewhere in Orange County, at Fullerton Civic Light Opera. It was like my first job [and] my contract was non-equity, and so you receive a certain stipend, which almost just covered transportation initially. But it was basically my introduction to musical theater, [and] pursuing that professionally.
So that was like my first real job in theater. Then after that, I booked another equity production, a national tour of a musical called “Bombay Dreams”. Then I kind of pursued other musical theater productions. I wasn’t familiar with the theater as well in L.A., it’s more film and TV, and New York tends to be more theater. So again, it’s lone of the things that just happened by chance and then it kind of followed that path [that] led to a lot of other opportunities.
And so, it’s not always consistent, but, you know, I have been in productions. Now I’m so excited to be part of this production of course.
Speaking of the current production, could you give me an idea, in your words, what “Miss Saigon” is about?
Well it’s a story that takes place during the Vietnam War. Long story short, it’s about a young Vietnamese woman or even girl, she was 17 years old at the start of the show, who meets an American G.I. and they fall in love. So, there’s like a romance that builds quickly amidst all this war and tragedy that’s going on. And, without giving too much away, the story is really about their love. But it’s also about a lot of hope in times of trouble and tragedy and the stigma that you refute for love, and it could be for your partner, for your home or your country. I’m an immigrant child, so it’s really, in my opinion, a story about that.
Thank you. And for this show you are part of the ensemble. How is that like?
Well it’s fun, our company is great. I play several characters. I’m like a bar hustler and I’m a communist soldier. In Act II I play a “lover boy”. So, it’ll make sense if you are able to watch the production. So just various roles that help tell the story. And I’m part of an ensemble with amazing leads and amazing cast members who are just so strong and so talented. We really have a great time on stage.
Do you have a specific moment from the show, either as an audience member or performer, that’s your favorite?
That’s an interesting one. There’s a couple I enjoy, “The American Dream”, just because it’s a dance number and I guess because I’m a dancer first I like the movement of things. But the guy that plays our Engineer [role], his name is Red Concepción. He’s just phenomenal. All of the leads are phenomenal.
But when I see him kind of carry the show and then at the end of the whole production, he is singing this whole number that kind of satirizes American culture. He is just a beast out there and it’s amazing to watch. And so, he kind of opens that number and me and the other dancers are just waiting in the wings for our entrance and so like I’m able to watch just him do his thing.
I’m always captivated by the performances of our cast members. That one in particular always just impresses me every night. Like, I just don’t understand how they can do it every night just so powerfully and so amazing. I really love that scene.
We have such a beautiful, amazing set. So, like, there’s this scene that’s always kind of like dropping for a lot of audience members. So, yeah, just like so many like so much like different textures to the style like acrobats. And so, they bring another element. We have like some soft moments. So, it’s like a really, really kind of like a nice, diverse array of things.
Oh, thank you. And onto my last question, for people that are not familiar with “Miss Saigon”, why would you recommend it?
100% I recommend them to watch this story. You know, it’s a really beautiful and dramatic story told through music and dance. We have a superb an amazing cast, so strong, so talented. It’s not your typical happy go lucky theater experience, but it’s one that I think resonates for a lot of people who want to believe in love and hope amidst any kind of struggle.