“Miss Saigon” is a tragic story about love and hope. Although the show isn’t exactly a fairy tale, it does make audiences believe in the magic that can come from a heartfelt human bond. Emily Bautista plays Kim, a 17-year-old girl stuck in a war-torn country whose life is forever changed after she falls for an American GI. As the show goes on, Kim’s journey is tested but her love and hope prove to be more formidable than anything else that comes her way. Bautista sat down with Metro to talk about the show, the timeless elements of the story and how sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice is the greatest showcase of love.
When did you first hear about or see the show?
I kind of grew up with that soundtrack playing through my house as a little girl. It was really important to my parents that I was introduced to it onstage, because that was what I loved doing — I loved performing and I loved singing. So, pretty early on I want to say. I remember my dad playing the soundtrack and I kind of grew up with it. I didn’t see it until high school but I watched bootlegs on YouTube here and there, just videos to see what the show was about.
What can you tell me about your character Kim?
One of the big story arcs is her journey and her fight for survival and the protection of her son. It starts off with her as a 17-year-old girl from the village, and she falls in love with an American GI. They have a son but the GI has to go back to America and their separation causes a lot of distress and makes it hard for her to survive this war-torn country with a baby. She’s a very strong individual, she’s a very loving individual, and one of the things I’ve admired about her is that she doesn’t lose hope.
You know the endgame — which I won’t give away — is a bit controversial on whether or not she’s giving up or not, but I think she’s trying to make the smartest decision she can as a mother.
Do you feel like the ending is a good way to close Kim’s chapter?
I think I have to go with, she made the decision that she thought was best for her child. I think that was the only thing she was thinking of at the end of the show: This is what’s going to give my child the best life. I agree with her thought process there.
Miss Saigon is onstage until March 31. Credit: Matthew Murphy and Johan Persson
Were there any moments that were emotionally intense?
It’s a very emotionally charged show and I haven’t experienced the things that Kim has, but I’ve experienced great love and I’ve experienced great loss. I’ve experienced fear and sadness and joy and happiness. When I started out at this show, I was 18 or 19. Having those feelings was the only thing I could pull from because Kim goes through a lot of experiences I haven’t. But the feelings are core and that’s what I pull out when I need to when I’m onstage.
What makes this story so timeless?
It’s kind of an unfortunate thing but the world isn’t perfect. There will always be war and political corruption. We’re not perfect human beings. But the show shows that love prevails and love survives and it can be found in the most broken of places. Kim and Chris’ love story happens, and in such a war-torn country where there is very little hope, they find each other. It’s a very powerful thing that the show displays.
Do you have a favorite song from the show?
I think “The Nightmare.” It’s so epic and it really brings you in, with the music underscoring what’s happening onstage — just that coming together in such a beautiful piece. You hear different sounds playing for different characters in the orchestra, and that’s how our composer has described it to us. He always told us in the pit that different issues symbolize different characters. So whenever I’m getting lost in the shower or I feel myself drifting, I kind of just listen back and try to zone in on that Asian flute that’s playing in my dialogue — it’s something really special that they were able to do there.
What can the people of Philadelphia expect from the show?
I think the show covers everything. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry and it tells a beautiful love story. It is a sad and a tough show but what we do onstage and what we strive to do onstage is to display a show about love.