Behind the scenes with Nigel Huckle from Miss Saigon

Prepare to step into the world of Cameron Mackintosh's sensational musical phenomenon, Miss Saigon, as it sweeps across the country to thunderous applause and rave reviews. This epic production is set to arrive in Adelaide in January 2024.

In this interview, join us as we dive into the heart of this iconic production with Nigel Huckle, who plays the male lead, Chris. Discover what inspired him to take on this extraordinary role, the emotional depth he brings to his character, and why Miss Saigon holds a special place in the hearts of Australian audiences.

Q: Congratulations on being part of the Australian production of Miss Saigon! What initially drew you to this iconic musical and the role of Chris?

A: It cannot be said enough that Miss Saigon features one of the most incredible musical scores ever composed for the theatre. They simply don’t write musicals this grand and sweeping anymore, so the music is the first major draw for any actor, myself included. I’m also a bit of a history buff, and the fact that the Vietnam War was so recent, and in some ways so full of mystery, makes the challenge of bringing such realism to life an attractive prospect as well. Chris is one of the most demanding male roles in the musical theatre canon. Every tenor worked on “Why God Why?” in drama school. Getting to perform it on stage professionally is a whole new adventure, one I’ve dreamt about for a while and now I finally get to do it.

Q: Miss Saigon is known for its emotionally charged storyline. How do you prepare yourself to portray the complex character of Chris?

A: The key component for me is to fully commit to the role. Chris’s journey takes several twists and turns, and in a way, the story hinges on split-second decisions that he makes that we might, in everyday life these days, consider rash. But at its essence, the American presence in Vietnam was based on the idea that they were there to do some sort of good in coming to the aid of their South Vietnamese friends. And so meeting Kim finally gives him that realisation that there is good to be discovered, and that perhaps he can do some good in return (though sadly, he fails in his efforts).

I think Adelaide audiences are going to be moved by such an epic piece in a way they probably haven’t been in quite some time. Yes, it’s a summer blockbuster, but it’s also a beautiful and crushing love story that stays imprinted on you long after you leave the theatre.

Q: The original production of Miss Saigon premiered in Australia in 1995. What aspects of this new production do you believe will resonate strongly with Australian audiences?

A: Musically, the orchestrations are much more true-to-life. Instead of the synthesisers of 1995, the percussion kit is so large it has its own room in the pit next to the rest of the 25-piece orchestra. Visually, the production design is also more true-to-life with more colour in the costumes and the set, and of course, the life-sized Huey helicopter that flies down to the stage to evacuate the US Embassy. But the creative team has also taken licence and given us licence to update lyrics in parts of the show that breathe new life into the piece and highlight the relevance of doing Miss Saigon almost thirty-five years after it was first staged. Finally, this cast is made up of Vietnamese, Filipino, Singaporean, Chinese, African, Indonesian, Burmese and Polynesian Australians and New Zealanders, and skilled nternational artists hailing from four continents. I think Australian audiences will resonate with a cast that actually looks like Australia delivering this story with unapologetically unique performances.

Q: The musical’s score features memorable songs like ‘The Heat is On in Saigon‘ and ‘Last Night of the World.’ Can you share your experience of bringing these powerful songs to life on stage?

A: We have an incredible music team that is really attuned to what it takes to make these songs sound like real life. Though it is a sung-through musical, the style of the show requires enormous acting skill to drive the story in a way that allows those iconic songs to really soar. I remember in my final audition, our producer Cameron Mackintosh stopped me seconds into my first pass at ‘Last Night of the World’ to emphasise that we can’t go from recitative scenes into “pretty” singing in a way that makes the songs look like “musical theatre land”, the dramatic demands of the show are simply too high. Instead, there’s a layer of humanity and realism that we have to build into the singing. Both audiences who are coming to hear this luscious score, and those who are coming to watch powerful drama will be immensely satisfied by how this production is delivered.

Image credit: Daniel Boud

Miss Saigon

Festival Theatre

2 – 28 Jan 2024

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