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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Miss Saigon

The first musical I ever saw was Carnival! In 1990 I was in London on a school exchange trip and we were taken to see the show. We were Soviet kids and completely weirded out by the whole thing. The genre was incomprehensible to us. 

Ten years ago, N took me to my first Broadway show to see Color Purple. It was our first really big date, we were crazy in love, and I was predisposed to like everything on that trip. But we were both completely baffled by the musical. We didn’t get the plot, couldn’t understand the pronunciations, and left the show feeling utterly confused. A little later he took me to see Hairspray. I’m not easily bored but during this show we were both bored stiff. So we concluded it wasn’t our genre and stopped going. 

This year, though, I saw two Broadway musicals, Lion King and Miss Saigon (today). And I adored both of them and had the best time. So I wonder. Have I become Americanized and absorbed the culture to the point that I now understand the genre? Or has the genre progressed so much in the last 10 years that it’s simply very superior to what it used to be?

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18 thoughts on “Miss Saigon

  1. Dreidel on said:

    You’re in love with VERY old plays. “The Lion King” debuted on Broadway 21 years ago (1997), and “Miss Saigon” opened in ancient 1989. That American culture has been around for ages — it just took you awhile to discover it. (Whether it’s improved in the last 10 years or not is debatable.)

    Welcome to America! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1989 is totally not old. It’s in the millennial age bracket. 🙂

      But yes, today I freaked out people who knew me in my first years in the country by going on about how amazing the Midwest is.

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  2. Shakti on said:

    You were able to get tickets to those musicals because they are very long running ones.

    This year, though, I saw two Broadway musicals, Lion King and Miss Saigon (today).
    The Lion King‘s sets are amazing. Julie Taymor did excellent work.

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    • The music for The Lion King is excellent, too. I’ve never seen it, but even just listening to it is amazing. I’m pretty sure the composer also did the music for Sweeney Todd and — I think — Wicked.

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      • Now I want to see Hamilton because everybody seems to love it. I hope it has something beyond the rap. I like special effects in musicals. In Miss Saigon there’s a helicopter on the stage, and that’s amazing.

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        • I’ve gotta say the Hamilton excerpts I’ve heard via youtube have a very ’emperor’s new clothes’ feel about them, not much there musically and I think a lot of the appeal is about the audience congratulating themselves for being so edgy and with it.

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  3. You may have just seen ones that you didn’t find particularly good. I also didn’t find Hairspray that great. There are subgenres of sorts even within musicals as a given genre. Lion King is not anything similar to Rent, for instance. The Producers is sort of related to Chess as far as humor goes, but Chess is probably a lot closer to the Monty Python musicals. Annie is nothing like Phantom of the Opera, but Phantom is probably in a similar group with Wicked. And Avenue Q is another thing entirely. Part of it could be your changing perspectives. But part of it is just finding something you like. I was a member of the pit band when my school did Guys and Dolls, which was an awesome experience. If I saw it performed though, I really don’t think I’d like it. But there are other people who think it’s really good. Or there are musicals with great music but poor execution. Or poor music and great execution.

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  4. Why was the musical play genre so weird for Soviet kids? Musicals are an American mutation of operettas* (like Zarzuelas are a Spanish version).

    Also I’ve seen bits and pieces of Soviet movies that seemed like musicals in that stretches of dialogue are interrupted by characters breaking out in song.

    *the main innovation is that women sing in a weird pushed up chest voice that horrifies classically trained singers

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    • I love operetta. I used to go since I was a little kid. We had season tickets and went many times a year. I was so little when I started going that I remember bringing my favorite toy and holding it up the whole show so that he could see it.

      But that musical was so weird. Half of it takes place after the characters die and go to heaven. That seemed so bizarre to us. And the music was strange. It was all completely bizarre to us.

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      • “that musical was so weird”

        The subject matter seems a little twee to appeal to a bunch of soviet kids (very odd choice as an introduction).

        Similarly the Color Purple (not familiar with it as a musical) seems a bit too far culturally for you at the time (you might appreciate it more now) and Hairspray (I know the movie) is very early 60s oriented – I love it but it’s cultural dead space for a lot of people.

        I would say keep trying with different musicals and see what you like and don’t like. And…. my parents had a bunch of old musical soundtracks which me and brother listened to a lot – there are far worse ways of introducing kids to music than making the soundtracks available for Klara to explore.

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  5. Anon on said:

    Interesting article about how the UAE govt is forcing unwanted minorities to take up citizenship of another country.

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  6. Demotrash on said:

    I’ve read The Color Purple, and that really didn’t seem like a book that should be made into a musical.

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    • Maybe I should have read it before going because then I’d at least understand the plot. Should I read it now? Is it good?

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      • Re:The Color Purple
        I haven’t read the book but I have seen the misguided Steven Spielberg movie adaptation…. which had its moments, Whoopi Goldberg was pretty good and Oprah Winfrey was very good in it and some were predicting a big movie career for her but I think she knew she could make more money and have more influence on TV.
        There’s even a terrible music sequence that…. no. just. no.

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      • Demotrash on said:

        I liked it when I read it, but I was in junior high, so I don’t know if it’s actually good.

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