Northeast Times

Actress is indebted to ‘Miss Saigon’

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Melinda Chua is ap­pear­ing in her eighth pro­duc­tion of Miss Sai­gon, open­ing May 25 and run­ning through Ju­ly 17 at the Wal­nut Street Theatre.

But don’t think for one mo­ment that this act­ress/sing­er ever grows tired of the role.

“I nev­er get tired of ap­pear­ing in the pro­duc­tion be­cause I pre­tend that every night is the first time I’m do­ing it, and, of course, this really is the first time the audi­ence is see­ing it. I think it’s such a beau­ti­ful story that I just love play­ing the role,” she said.

Tak­ing in­spir­a­tion from the Puccini op­era Ma­dame But­ter­fly, Miss Sai­gon is a clas­sic love story brought up to date in a stun­ning the­at­ric­al spec­tacle. In the tur­moil of the Vi­et­nam War, an Amer­ic­an sol­dier and a Vi­et­namese girl fall in love, only to be sep­ar­ated dur­ing the fall of Sai­gon.

Their struggles to find each oth­er over the en­su­ing years end in tragedy for the young girl and a fight­ing chance for the child the sol­dier nev­er knew he had.

Miss Sai­gon, which premiered in 1989 in Lon­don, where it ran for 10 years, had its Broad­way premiere in 1991, earn­ing 11 Tony nom­in­a­tions, in­clud­ing for Best Mu­sic­al, Best Book and Best Score.

Ac­cord­ing to Chua, who plays Kim, the Vi­et­namese girl who is left be­hind, “audi­ences nev­er tire of see­ing this show be­cause it’s a story every­one can re­late to. It’s a love story, and also the story of the love of a moth­er and her child. And hav­ing played it all over the globe, in­clud­ing Ger­many and New Zea­l­and, I be­lieve it’s a story for every­one to en­joy.”

She ex­plained that the pro­duc­tion is “com­pletely sung through, al­most like an op­era, but the story has a back­drop of pretty re­cent his­tory that a lot of people still re­mem­ber. And I be­lieve that people are still fas­cin­ated with that part of our his­tory, re­liv­ing, per­haps, what life was like for people at that time.”

Play­ing Kim night after night is quite an emo­tion­al ex­per­i­ence for Chua.

“Tech­nic­ally, you have to be aware of all kinds of safety is­sues on­stage. But emo­tion­ally, it can be so drain­ing that right after the show I’m ex­hausted. So you really have to get used to do­ing a role like this,” she said.

Chua, whose fath­er was in the Air Force, moved around quite a bit, which might ac­count for her self-de­scribed shy­ness.

“I was al­ways in­volved in mu­sic, as was my whole fam­ily. All the kids played mu­sic­al in­stru­ments, and at the age of five I star­ted tak­ing pi­ano les­sons, then vi­ol­in and cla­ri­net,” she said.

But she al­ways loved singing, al­though when shy­ness got hold of her, she could be found singing in her closet, Chua said. Later, when her moth­er offered her voice les­sons, she quickly agreed and her ca­reer ac­tu­ally took off from there.

“After high school I at­ten­ded the Uni­versity of Red­lands (in Cali­for­nia), but they con­cen­trated their mu­sic­al cur­riculum mainly on op­era. So I soon trans­ferred to New York Uni­versity to get more in­volved in mu­sic­al theat­er,” she ex­plained. “Not long after I en­rolled, I got a chance to try out for Miss Sai­gon and got a part in the en­semble and as un­der­study for Kim.”

After a lengthy and sup­port­ive con­ver­sa­tion with her par­ents, Chua left NYU and took the part. Al­though she still hasn’t been able to fin­ish col­lege, she has learned so much from the show and the travel in­volved, she ex­plained.

ldquo;Over the years, I did do some work in Dis­ney­land and loc­al shows,” she said. “But this show has taken up most of my pro­fes­sion­al ca­reer. And since it is truly the role of a life­time, it’s been my hon­or to keep do­ing it.”

For tick­et in­form­a­tion, call 215-574-3550.

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