The heat is on as Miss Saigon prepares to land in Adelaide
The latest blockbuster production of Miss Saigon opens in Adelaide this January and one of its stars, former Adelaide performer Kerrie Anne Greenland, says the musical’s messages around war, loss and love remain as powerful and relevant as ever.
Former Adelaide performer Kerrie Anne Greenland plays the role of Ellen in 'Miss Saigon'. Photo: Daniel Boud / supplied
When the curtain rises on the Adelaide season of the hit musical Miss Saigon, there will be one particularly excited cast member waiting to take to the stage.
Kerrie Anne Greenland grew up in South Australia and has gone on to have an award-winning international musical career, yet she has never performed in her home town.
“This is the first time I will be professionally performing in Adelaide, and I am thrilled,” Greenland says. “I love bringing my kids home, they love seeing all the family, and I can’t wait to share the musical with all of my family – maybe not the kids, though, this time.”
Miss Saigon is set at the end of the Vietnam War and follows the doomed romance between Chris, an American marine, and Kim, a 17-year-old Vietnamese orphan who is forced to work at a bar and brothel called Dreamland, run by a notorious character known as “The Engineer”.
This acclaimed new production, which will open here after successful seasons in Sydney and Melbourne is presented by producer Cameron Mackintosh in association with GWB Entertainment.
Abigail Adriano as Kim and Nigel Huckle as Chris in Miss Saigon. Photo: Daniel Boud
Greenland plays Ellen, who is married to Chris, and says she researched extensively for the role to ensure she could add depth and layering to a character who could easily be seen as “unlikeable”, given she stands between Chris and Kim.
“It’s tricky,” she says. “We see the love story of Kim and Chris and we see this other woman, Ellen, who is Chris’s wife, and she meets him at a point in the journey and that’s a really difficult thing to go through every night and to portray, to not come across as just a very unlikable character.
“Interestingly, Cameron Mackintosh was talking with us in Sydney about the role of Ellen and it’s always a difficult one to cast and to portray, even down to the wig and the costumes. It’s really interesting to get the balance right within the context of the show.
“It’s an exciting challenge every day to make sure that I’m also hopefully adding complexity to the story instead of just easily being that character or seeming like the bad guy.
“Another element is Ellen doesn’t enter the stage until right near the end of act one and instantly you have to be able to get the audience on your side, and understanding what your part is in this story.”
A helicopter landing on stage illustrates the incredible production values of the show. Photo: Matthew Murphy and Johan Persson.
This huge-scale production, which includes a helicopter landing on stage, boasts an outstanding Australian cast led by sassy showman Seann Miley Moore as The Engineer, newcomer Abigail Adriano in an extraordinary performance as Kim, musical theatre star Nigel Huckle as Chris, Laurence Mossman as Thuy and Kimberley Hodgson as Gigi.
The emotive and moving score includes iconic numbers such as ‘The Heat is on in Saigon”, “The Movie in My Mind,”, “Last Night of the World” and “American Dream”.
Greenland becomes emotional as she describes the feeling among cast members, who immerse themselves daily in this story based around the despair of war, particularly against the backdrop of ongoing hostilities in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza.
“We’ve got this epic love story that’s happening between Kim and Chris and it’s really supported by that extravagant, beautiful music, which is so moving, but laid on top of that we are in the context of the Vietnam War and, as someone from the cast said the other day, ‘We don’t have to tell this story any more when it’s not relevant’, but sadly it is still relevant.
“That’s been the really interesting part of this particular show, because we all spent a lot of time researching the context of the show and the Vietnam War and that was actually a big part of our process – learning about it and preparing for it.
“It’s easy in some ways to get into the routine of performance and forget about what you’re doing, but a show like this is still so raw in a lot of ways, and that means we are able to really bring that emotion and you still see actors coming off stage every day crying as much as the people in the audience, because it’s difficult.
“But these stories are relevant and they still deserve to be told.”
The Australian production of Miss Saigon. Photo: Daniel Boud
Miss Saigon, which premiered in Adelaide in 1995 and returned in 2007, is from the creators of Les Misérables, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, and is based on Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.
Torben Brookman, director of GWB Entertainment, says he is thrilled to be working with Cameron Mackintosh to bring the new production to Adelaide.
“After witnessing the opening night of this production in Sydney and Melbourne recently, Adelaide audiences are in for an absolute treat with the best production of this incredible show that I’ve ever seen,” Brookman says.
Over the years, Miss Saigon has won 70 major theatre awards including two Olivier Awards, three Tony Awards and four Drama Desk Awards. It has been seen by 38 million people, performed in 15 different languages and in more than 32 countries .
This new Cameron Mackintosh blockbuster opened in London in May 2014, followed by a season on Broadway before making its way to Australia.
Seann Miley Moore is outstanding as The Engineer. Photo: Daniel Boud
The show will tour Asia after its Adelaide run, but Greenland won’t be continuing with the production.
The mother of three, whose husband Rainer Pollard is a musician and musical director, says the logistics of being away from their Melbourne base for too long makes touring difficult.
“It’s the same as everyone’s parent juggle, it’s just a part of what this job entails; there will be times where you are working away,” she says.
“We’ve made it work with me being in Sydney at the Opera House and travelling back and forth and my husband being the super-hero dad at home.
“Then being in Melbourne with the show was exciting and it’s even more exciting coming home to Adelaide, where the kids can spend time with family and we have all the babysitters in the world.”
Being cast in Miss Saigon is the latest accolade for Greenland, who has performed across musical theatre, cabaret and opera during her diverse career.
Kerrie Anne Greenland has worked across musical theatre, cabaret and opera.
Growing up in Adelaide, she always had a passion for the performing arts and asked her parents if she could do singing lessons at around age 12.
“The story goes my parents said if you do the singing lessons, you also need to try acting and dancing, so I was a part of Mighty Good Talent School throughout my youth and really enjoyed my time there across all disciplines,” says Greenland, who took part in Charles Campbell College’s performing arts program.
She then studied psychology at university until a friend told her about a musical theatre course at Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). She was 21 when she auditioned and was accepted into the prestigious course, where she attained a Bachelor of Arts Music Theatre and went on to study a Masters of Music Opera Performance at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.
Greenland, who is also an early childhood teacher, won a Helpmann Award for Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical for her performance as Éponine in Les Misérables, which she starred in for three years.
The talented all-rounder says Miss Saigon is similar to Les Misérables in that they both tell “meaningful, important stories”.
“It’s not about fluff and tap dancing, although there is a very wonderful place in the world of musical theatre for that, but Miss Saigon is like coming and watching a real experience,” she says.
“We need these epic productions because they’re not only fulfilling as a performer but they tell stories that need to be told.
“So, I just think for people who say, ‘I’m not really a musical theatre person’, this is unlike any other musical theatre show you’ll ever see, so don’t miss it.”
Miss Saigon is currently playing in Melbourne and will open in Adelaide at the Festival Theatre on January 2.