The smash-hit musical Miss Saigon has returned to Broadway. The revival is nominated for two Tony Awards, including Best Revival and Best Actress in a Musical for young Eva Noblezada in the role of Kim. Noblezada, a Mexican and Filipino American, was only 17 years old when she was cast in the part, echoing the now-star who was the first Kim at 18 years old: Lea Salonga.
Salonga was the first Asian woman to win a Tony Award after the show first opened on Broadway in 1991. Miss Saigon was the start of Salonga’s long international career. She went on to perform in Broadway musicals like Les Miserables and Flower Drum Song, and provided the singing voices for two Disney Princesses-Jasmine and Mulan.
Although the entertainment industry in America has improved its employment for Asian actors thanks to people like Salonga, there is still plenty of work to be done. In an interview with The Republic at AZCentral, she recognized the controversy surrounding the portrayal of Asians in the play that catapulted her career. She also defended it saying “that those stories have actually happened.” She grew up near a U.S. military base and saw those stories first hand.
Unfortunately, for too long, the Asian characters and stories in shows like Miss Saigon were the only representation Asian Americans have had. Since then, David Henry Hwang’s plays have been playing on and off-Broadway. Musicals such as Allegiance, and revivals of The King and I and Flower Drum Song add to this diversity. As progress continues to be made, Salonga sees a day when Miss Saigon will coexist with many other depictions of the Asian American experience, because it cannot be “the only game in town as far as Asian representation is concerned.”
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