New song for Ellen in Miss Saigon - Translation

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"Now That I've Seen Her" has always been one of my favorite songs from Miss Saigon. I agree with everyone else who says that the song captures Ellen's raw feelings and reaction to the hotel scene.

This new song, "Maybe," bothers me on so many levels. First, it doesn't have a melody that stays with you. That song was completely unmemorable except for the repetitive, screeching word "maybe." Second, the lyrics are too complex for the moment right after the hotel scene. Ellen should be upset that Chris didn't confide in her about Kim, but honestly, Ellen doesn't have that much reason to suspect Chris is getting ready to leave her. Ellen's song should be about Chris' betrayal in not telling her about Kim and about her immediate hurt upon meeting Kim. Finally, this song just doesn't fit with the rest of the musical. The sounds and melodies I associate with Miss Saigon are not reflected in "Maybe" at all.

Ultimately, Ellen is an unimportant character. It doesn't really matter what the audience thinks of her - if they sympathize with her or feel she's the other woman. Aren't we supposed to feel both, anyway? Aren't we supposed to feel conflicted about her and the way the story ends?

On top of that, I don't see any reason for changing Ellen's song when her story is completely wiped from our minds not fifteen minutes after her solo number when Kim kills herself. I don't see why Boublil and Schonberg have been obsessed with this song all these years. I also don't understand why they continue to tinker with their best musicals when it's apparent their new arrangements are terrible. (I still have not forgiven them for hollowing out some of the best tunes in Les Miserables.)

Updated On: 3/25/12 at 01:42 PM
Broadway Star
"the lyrics are too complex for the moment right after the hotel scene. Ellen should be upset that Chris didn't confide in her about Kim, but honestly, Ellen doesn't have that much reason to suspect Chris is getting ready to leave her. Ellen's song should be about Chris' betrayal in not telling her about Kim and about her immediate hurt upon meeting Kim."

That's what I though when I first heard the song too.
A few weeks later I actually watched the show with the song in it. It is a match made in heaven. Everything you doubt now will fall in to place then. Only then, you will see what I mean.
It's perfect and that surprised me too.

"Ultimately, Ellen is an unimportant character. It doesn't really matter what the audience thinks of her - if they sympathize with her or feel she's the other woman. Aren't we supposed to feel both, anyway? Aren't we supposed to feel conflicted about her and the way the story ends?"

What? Ellen is a very important character. Without her there would be no story because Chris and Kim could just live happily ever after together. But I can see the logic in this. Your opinon is based on the show with the old number, and that's why you think of Ellen that way.

Also, Ellen knew about Kim for days/weeks now, everything is slowly getting clearer for her. Chris' behaviour from the past few years, etc. She has very good reasons to be insecure. They have been traveling for days, maybe planning this trip for weeks. She knew she was going to meet Kim. She thought about all this before. With that in mind "Now that I've seen her" is actually quite silly. After all this time, and this trip to Bangkok there are more thoughts going through her mind than just "I just realized that Kim exists". She already knew that. The audience was ready for her next thoughts even before that song started. We've seen the panic reaction in the screaming in the scene before.

Updated On: 3/25/12 at 02:38 PM
Broadway Star
"Maybe" not.

I don't like the melody - it sounds like either it was a reject from "Martin Guerre" or any number of Frank Wildhorn tunes. I still don't see the need to eliminate "Now That I've Seen Her" at this point in time.
Broadway Legend
Since Ellen only has 1.5 songs in the show, I like that the new song has more impact. I think it's beautiful. I hope they record the 2013 revival.
While I agree completely that Ellen is a pivotal character -- and by that I mean that Kim would not have a reason to shoot herself if Ellen wasn't an impossible obstacle -- there are some very significant reasons why changing the song also changes the nature of her entire character, and also lessens the need for Kim to commit suicide. One might say the new song is about hope. Well, guess what? The whole show is about hope -- from Kim's perspective and from the Engineer's perspective. In fact, we've already heard Ellen hope and "still believe" that one day Chris will confide in her and they'll be happy. Do we need her to reprise that? We don't need to be inundated with more hope from someone we don't particularly NEED to sympathize with. We can... if we want... it's certainly a valid direction to take Ellen in... and it's a lovely song... but to me, it's all much more tragic when Ellen presents herself as a woman who is not going to back down, because let's face it: if someone came along and knocked on your door and claimed to be married to your husband or wife, you'd be like "F you. I don't care who you are or were, now leave."

Simply put, everyone can't be a protagonist in the story. The only antagonist we have is Thuy and he bows out before the first act is done. I've always found it particularly interesting that Ellen, who is completely innocent, becomes an antagonist simply by virtue of being married to the man that Kim loves. She takes an honest position and says: "Look, we'd like to help, but he's my man and that's not going to change. It sucks that I've seen you face to face and you're not just a name I can discard... but tough sh**." It does paint her as a bit of a b*tch, but it also harkens back to the concept of war and media established in Bui-Doi, which is that if we don't see it, we don't care. They're just nameless faceless people... until you discover that they're real. And so Ellen's battle becomes hating this woman even though she's flesh and blood and suffering. It's not her moment to believe that love will triumph, it's a moment to doubt… and question... and hate... and to hate that she hates at all, but she can't help it. We need a character like that to balance out the ones who are not like that at all. It's unrealistic to think that everyone wants to do the right thing without hesitation. In fact, self preservation is usually our first reaction. That's real.

You wouldn't stop and pause and reflect on your life two seconds after confronting your husband's secret first wife. You'd be like "whaaat the eff just happened here, and how do I even begin process this?!" Robbing her of that small moment to play a proper antagonist puts her on the same playing field as Kim, and though in a way they are every much in the same boat, it's too one dimensional to have all your characters with the same motivation. That's just bad storytelling. It's much more powerful to have people coming from all angles. I mean, do we need an American copy of Kim? No. We need someone who is driven by the same cause but reacts differently. Let's look at the characters:

Kim - wants to be reunited with Chris, but most of all is willing to sacrifice everything so that her child will have a better life with his father.

Chris - wanted to give Kim a better life, failed, and eventually tries to find her so he can be reunited with his child.

Engineer - wants to flee to American to make a better life for himself. Helping Kim and Tam is a step which only benefits his endgame, though I prefer to think that he cares... he just doesn't really show it or realize it until it's too late... in that final moment when he picks up Tam and shields him from the sight of his mother's body.

John - wants to do right where they went wrong during the war and help the children left behind

Thuy - wants the bride (Kim) he was promised to maintain his family's honor

Ellen - wants to keep her husband. Period.

Perfect tragedy. What we need is for her to make her intentions clear because she hasn't done that yet. We don't need to know how she met Chris; that was already established in "Please" when John explains to Kim that Chris fell apart after the war. It's also explained to Kim during "Room 317" and by Chris during "Confrontation" when he tells Ellen how he felt during and after the war. We know he was down and giving up, and then he met Ellen and his life began again. We know he's torn about what to do next. We know that John wants them to work this out and he thinks they're doing a piss poor job of it. We know that the Engineer is getting what he wants. We know what Kim wants... and that only leaves Ellen to lay her cards on the table.

Everyone in between Kim and Ellen can do whatever they want, but Ellen is in direct conflict with Kim, and her reaction will ultimately cause Kim to kill herself. If Ellen makes us sympathize with her, the impact of what she's done is not so powerful when Kim pulls that trigger. Because the moment she does, you realize that if only Ellen had received her differently, Kim would not have left in such despair. Think of it like yelling at someone, and you then you sit around thinking negatively about them, stewing in your anger… and then you find out they're dead before you could resolve the argument. You would feel so guilty and wish you'd done things differently. If, however, you held out hope that it's not a big deal and everything will be alright, and the person dies, the guilt factor is not as deep and scarring. This, to me, changes the entire ending for Ellen. I like to think that she walks into that room and sees Kim on the floor and thinks "Oh god, what have I done?" You see, we don't have to sympathize with her BEFORE that moment because it becomes a tragedy for her as well the very moment she sees Kim dying in her husband's arms. When we turn her into someone who is more likeable and more patient instead of considering a very brutally honest ultimatum, we rob Ellen of some of that guilt that she deserves. It also makes Kim's decision less tragic and suddenly needless. I don't want to look at Kim dying on the floor and think "Aww, you should have waited it out to see what happens." I want to recognize that she was willing to pay the ultimate price for her child and that she had no other choice. Thus, Ellen shouldn't be telling us that she's going to wait it out and see what happens, because she believes in Chris… she should be declaring war on Kim's intentions. And that makes it all the more ironic -- that this story should start with Chris wanting to save Kim from a war, and that Kim goes through all this, only to end up in a war of love that results in her death.

One of the reasons they keep toying with this, unfortunately, is probably because of the race-related backlash that always comes from this show. There are always those who detest the story because they feel it depicts the Vietnamese as seedy prostitutes and savages and hustlers, while the Americans are portrayed as pompous do-gooders who don't really care about the Asians, and all the while the Asians need to be "saved" by becoming Americanized. Madama Butterfly is consistently criticized in the same manner. Ellen is tagged as a cold-hearted American b*itch who needs to be given more to sympathize with, simply because there are no white people in the story to sympathize with at all. You have a predominantly Asian cast, you have a soldier who left a knocked up girl behind and then moved on, you have his stone-cold wife, and all the white people have no intention of actually helping in a manner worth celebrating. I think the story is great the way it is because it leaves everyone with their hands tied and no happy ending in sight. So does everyone else I know, whether they're white or Asian or any-American. But the voices of dissent carry louder than the voices of approval.

They should have left "Her or Me/Now That I've Seen Her" alone. They also should have left "The Sacred Bird" alone instead of reprising "This is the Hour" or inserting "Little God of My Heart". Why they do this is truly beyond me. Removing "I Saw Him Once" from Les Mis was another brutal decision that robbed Cosette of her only defining moment.

And now that all that is out of the way, I challenge you all to listen to the new song again and try to figure out where the tune was taken from, because the FIRST time I heard it, I was humming along in perfect unison. I knew every note before she sang it. Either it WAS taken from Martin Guerre, or it's borrowed from another piece. I literally already knew it as she was singing it, but I've never heard it before. It's driving me nuts.

Updated On: 12/24/12 at 01:52 AM
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What I meant is that Ellen is a mechanism in this story. We don't need to think too deeply about her situation. She's necessary to the story, though, of course.

I don't see any other possibilities for how a wife would react to meeting her husband's other wife he never told her about. I think "The Confrontation" is the natural way such a conversation would go. I never placed any blame on Ellen for Kim's decision to kill herself. I never really thought of it.
Broadway Legend
Ellen specifically says to Kim that they will not take Tam: "Take a child from his mother, impossible Kim...but Kim your child needs you, Chris is married to me we want kids of our own." That tells Kim that the only way Ellen and Chris will take Tam is if she is dead. Her suicide is a direct result of what Ellen says to her about not taking Tam.
Broadway Star
Yes, and in the next scene she tells Chris:

If it was only Tam I'd take him now, he is your son we'd make it work somehow.

My Oh My
Broadway Legend
^ When I first heard that part, which wasn't included on the OLC album, I thought Ellen was an a-hole.

But I quickly quit thinking that, even if she does say one thing to Kim and another to Chris. It just takes placing yourself in her very, very difficult and awkward position, and I think most would be like her...wanting to make good with the hubby, but finding Kim's eagerness in imposing a child that isn't her's onto their lives frightening enough to make her blurt out in the heat of the moment, "Chris is married to ME. We want kids of our OWN!"

Of course, it isn't happening to us, and we're just watching. It's very easy to decide what the best thing for all involved is, and apply it like nothing. Ellen was already such a good sport and understanding enough to remain with her husband through it all, even choosing to fly out with him to be of "help." I'm sure she fully intended to do just that, but as she says, "I didn't come here to meet a girl who loves my husband! I came here to help, but what do I do? Now, after this? What do I...?"

She sort of knows she loused things up, but she wasn't told the full story, causing Kim and she to end up revealing to each other that information in what is probably one of the most awkwardly heart wrenching situations anyone could ever find themselves in.

Poor Ellen and poor Kim. =(
Recreation of original John Cameron orchestration to "On My Own" by yours truly. Click player below to hear.
Broadway Star
Fosse, I get how someone could blame Ellen for Kim's decision to kill herself. I just never placed that blame because Ellen's responding honestly and from a place of shock at what she's just learned about her husband. If anything, I blame Kim for not waiting to meet with Chris and hear from him directly. But then again, there could be reasons for why she wouldn't do that, and it doesn't work in the narrative to have a chat between Chris and Kim.
Broadway Star
"Ellen's responding honestly and from a place of shock at what she's just learned about her husband"

Ellen already knows that Kim has a child from Chris and that's why they went to Bangkok in the first place.

The only surprise is that Kim tells her that she wants them to take Tam. It's actually strange that Ellen and Chris never talked about the possibility of taking Tam with them or not, as they found out about it weeks before while they still were in the USA.

Kim's idea should be no surprise, especially not because John works for the "Bui Doi" foundation and they have the purpose to reunite the children with their fathers and that's what they are doing by going to Bangkok.

If Ellen and Chris just had a chat on the airplane going there, like "If it's only Tam we could take him, but I don't want to have Kim near", then she could have told Kim that in the hotelroom, instead of being so surprised.

The only one that should be surprised is Kim, who finds out that Chris has another wife all of a sudden. So I think Ellen should have been better prepared and not so determined to scream "NO" to Kim's idea immediately. It would have been better if she said "I understand it's difficult but Chris is married to me now. Let's just wait for Chris and have a talk with all of us and see what we can do with Tam, because Chris and I talked about it of course and we are willing to take Tam".

Updated On: 12/25/12 at 06:07 PM
Broadway Legend
Ellen also finds out that Kim meant much more to Chris than he had told her.

Jimmy, what are you doing here in the middle of the night? It's almost 9 PM!
Updated On: 12/25/12 at 06:38 PM
My Oh My
Broadway Legend
Dave, I think you're severely underestimating Ellen's experience. Everyone could see Kim's and sympathize, but I've always understood Ellen's just as much and feel it may not be as desperate, but still heart breaking.

She has been dealing with Chris' repeated nightmares and his calling out Kim's name. She has no way of knowing if it's out of love for her or what. She has all but seconds to connect the dots and many, many questions come up at the same time. And on a much lesser, but definitely not negligible, level is Kim isn't some nasty ho that Ellen knows Chris wouldn't go for and she feels a bit threatened in that way too. Throw in Kim's absolute heartbreak and obvious still being in love with Chris, AND her own shock at thinking Chris has merely married another women while still being married to her, and I think Ellen deserves a big, warm, cuddly hug, awwww.

Recreation of original John Cameron orchestration to "On My Own" by yours truly. Click player below to hear.
Updated On: 12/25/12 at 07:06 PM
Broadway Star
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for Ellen, I love the character and feel very much sympathy for her.

It just seems silly to me that Chris and Ellen were going to Bangkok to meet Tam and never spoke about any consequences together. I also hate it when someone screams something in full conviction, and 5 minutes later, to her own husband declares the complete opposite.

But that might be a hypocritical thing you see in many relationships.

But if I were Ellen, I would never say to Chris "We could take Tam, we could make it work somehow" (only if I mean it), and realize that 5 minutes ago I was screaming the opposite, and if I did happen to make that mistake, I would say, let's go to Kim and tell her that news NOW.

Updated On: 12/27/12 at 10:41 AM

Apparently B&S have just written a new song for Miss Saigon called "Leave Him?".

It will make its world premiere in China next month for the Do You Hear The People Sing concerts with Michael Ball and Lea Salonga, from irish producer Enda Markey. I think Aussie singer Amanda Harrison (once the Australian Ellen) will be the first person to sing it.

Not sure if this replaces Maybe or is slotted in a new place in the show?

Chorus Member
Judging by that screenshot of the score, this IS "Maybe" ("Toch Nog" in the Dutch revival), only with a different title.

Guess they just changed the lyrics of the song...
We have to burn our past behind us - and YOU are the first one I'm going to burn!
Broadway Star
Ugh. Lyrical changes will not fix this. "Maybe" is just a very forgettable melody. The Signature Theatre revival used it and even though the young lady playing Ellen ended the song on a gratuitous high note, at the two performances I attended, the reception was very lukewarm - no one applauded the first time I saw the show.

The mini touring production I caught at The Bushnell retained "Now That I've Seen Her," which itself went through several lyric changes, but it's still a better melody and works just as well today for Ellen as it did for the original productions in London and New York.
Broadway Star
I think the best productions of Miss Saigon are when Kim and Ellen are both sympathetic characters who are both victims of a meaningless war. The only real bad guy should be war.

I am not sure this new song will accomplish this....
Broadway Legend
I heard Ellen's new song, Maybe, during the recent production at Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA. It was whiney, screechy, and dull, and served absolutely no purpose.
Hey Dottie! Did your colleagues enjoy the cake even though your cat decided to sit on it? ~GuyfromGermany
I was quite satisfied with "Now That I've Seen Her" after they replaced "Her or Me" because I thought it made Ellen more likeable.