Protesters Boycott Touring MISS SAIGON at the Ordway in St. Paul
Surrounded by controversy, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts opens a touring production of MISS SAIGON tonight, October 8, in St. Paul, Minn. According to Kare11.com, protesters of the show -- the Tony-nominated modern take on Puccini's Madame Butterfly -- asked the Ordway's President Patricia Mitchell to "apologize, offer refunds to ticket holders who wish them and promise never to show MISS SAIGON again."
"We put this on because it is a really, in our judgement, a really compelling piece of musical theater. It neither romanticizes, nor trivializes sex trafficking, which is, by the way, going on in this town and it does not only involve Asian women. It involves girls and women of every race," Mitchell responded. "I do not apologize for presenting the work, of course, we regret that it is painful for some, but many theater works, anything that is interesting, is going to have some element of controversy. If it did not, we would all be watching 'Leave it to Beaver' retuns, which I do not think anybody wants."
A protest website, DontBuyMiss-Saigon.com, has joined the discussion by stating: "While we recognize that there are many truths, we also see that institutional racism, sexism, and colonization continually reinforce shallow stereotypes of people of color, and the 'truths' that are most often lauded and supported are exploitative works that reproduce and validate harmful power structures and chauvinism that ultimately harms the people they claim to portray. MISS SAIGON is such a spectacle: a big budget ode to colonialism that romanticizes war and human trafficking." The group is hosting a "Don't Buy Miss Saigon: The Unity Event" tonight, October 8, which coincides with the show's opening in St. Paul.
This production of MISS SAIGON opened at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City and will travel to the Bushnell Theatre in Hartford, the Fisher Theatre in Detroit, while ending its run here at the Ordway on October 13th. This is the third production of MISS SAIGON by the Ordway (the others were presented in 1994 and 1998).
Miss Saigon is a love story about the relationship between an American GI and a young Vietnamese woman during the American occupation of Saigon during the Vietnam War. The Tony Award-winning musical was created by Claude Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, the visionaries behind Les Miserables, and features a series of sensational musical numbers including, "Why God Why?" and "The American Dream." It remains the 12th longest-running Broadway musical in musical theatre history and was deemed once of the most technically challenging productions when it originally opened on Broadway.
"For this production of Miss Saigon, we have assembled a stellar cast under the direction of internationally recognized artists that includes Director Fred Hanson, Music Director Kevin Stites and Choreographer Baayork Lee," said Denton Yockey, President and Executive Producer of Starlight Theatre, where the Ordway co-produced show first opened.
A new production of the 24-year-old classic will open in May 2014 in London. Producer Cameron Mackintosh, whose original production ran for ten years in London's vast Theatre Royal Drury Lane and many years on Broadway, will produce. The new production has already exceeded the record for box office sales for a London show (The Book of Mormon) and Broadway production (The Producers) on its first day of sales.
Photo Credit: Bob Compton Photography