BWW Interview: MISS SAIGON'S Red Concepción Says this Grittier Version of the Show is Resonating with American Audiences

BWW Interview: MISS SAIGON'S Red Concepción Says this Grittier Version of the Show is Resonating with American Audiences

Red Concepción grew up listening to show tunes. In fact, he remembers listening to cast albums like MISS SAIGON from the age of five.

Fast forward 20 plus years and Concepción found himself playing the role of The Engineer on the UK tour of MISS SAIGON. He says although he knew the music by heart, he had no idea how big and epic the show was until rehearsals started. And for that five-year-old little boy growing up listening to the soundtrack in the Philippines, working with Claude Michel Schönberg (music), Alain Boublil (lyrics), and Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics) is a dream come true.

"It's wonderful as an actor to be in such a creative space," he says. "They don't write scores like this anymore."

"It's the most luscious, epic music that I've ever encountered or studied or listened to," he adds. "It takes you to a place that other musicals don't."

Concepción says he jumped at the chance to reprise the role of The Engineer on the US tour, which plays at the Durham Performing Arts Center next week. He says his Engineer is a combination of Gene Kelly, Elvis, and James Brown.

"I have a lot of balls in the air that I need to juggle all the time," he says. "Sometimes he is the villain, sometimes he's the narrator, sometimes he's the comic relief."

"He's wheeling and dealing, but the audience also has to kind of be charmed by him," he adds. "So, it was finding the balance between him being an unsavory character but still being kind of charming."

Set during the Vietnam War, the Tony-Award winning MISS SAIGON tells the story of two lovers, Kim, a Vietnam bar-girl and prostitute, and Chris, an American GI, and how the pair deal with the aftermath of the war. The show opened on Broadway in 1991. In 2015, the revival opened in New York for a limited engagement before going on tour. Concepción says for audiences who saw that original production, this revival version will be a very different experience.

"It's a lot grittier but also a lot more truthful," he says. "There was a lot of attention that was paid to making the scenes as truthful and as honest to the time as we can, showing grim and darkness, while still staying true to the pomp and the polish and the big spectacle of [the] musical."

And Concepción says the fact that this production is more honest and true is resonating with American audiences even more so than audiences overseas.

"This is so much a part of American history, people connect to it more and people understand it a bit more," he says. "We do have a responsibility to honor the people who actually went through the war, honor their memory and honor the people who survived."

"We're happy that it's out there on stage for the new generation to kind of see it and understand it as well."

Concepción adds the show's underlying theme of love and acceptance gives him hope for the future.

"One of the things I love about being in the cast of MISS SAIGON is when you go backstage there are people from very different backgrounds," he says. "You have Filipinos, you have Japanese, you have Vietnamese, you've got people from Australia and from America, and we all kind of coexist and we all work together so well."

"It gives me hope that we all can get along and actually work together and coexist and be tolerant and accepting of everyone."

MISS SAIGON runs January 22nd through January 27th at the Durham Performing Arts Center. For more information visit: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/miss-saigon.

Photo by Matthew Murphy.

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From This Author Lauren Van Hemert

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