Sometimes high school theatre dreams come true. Just ask Christine Bunuan, the actress who plays Gigi in the national tour of MISS SAIGON. Christine and the talented cast of the national tour are bringing the heat of Saigon back to the Broadway San Diego stage July 9th – July 14th.
She’ll tell you how lucky she is to be performing in this in collaboration with the original creative team Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil.
“If high school theatre me this knew was happening she’d be freaking out to know I’d be a part of this production.” Christine says, adding with a laugh, “I still freaked out when I got it.”
It wasn’t just the general love of a high school theatre kid that she had for the show though. Bunuan says the love for this show came just after she got into theatre and musicals in high school. What MISS SAIGON did for her was show her that her dream of a future in theatre was possible.
“In high school; that was the time of LES MISÉRABLES, and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and MISS SAIGON. All of those big 90’s musicals were out and I fell in love with Saigon. I instantly fell in love with the music, “I’d Give My Life For you”, “Sun and Moon”, and remember hearing it and being in love. Also, that Lea Salonga was an Asian actor and it made it feel like it was possible for someone who looks like me to be in and star in a musical.”
Set in 1970’s Saigon during the Vietnam War, the show tells the tale of a doomed romance, the ravages of war, and what people will do to survive. It opens in Dreamland, a bar and brothel where the young and naïve Kim has taken a job as a bar girl. Kim’s innocence strikes Chris, a Sergeant in the Marines who finds himself unable to resist trying to save her from everything that is going on around her.
Bunuan plays Gigi Van Tranh, a more world weary madam at Dreamland. Like the other girls working in the bar, she too dreams of a better life far away from the war. It might sound heavy, but Christine says her role pays homage to those that lived through this period in time.
“What keeps me going is for Gigi, you only hear her story at the very beginning. She represents the women whose voices were never heard, whose stories have disappeared. Many women in war torn countries, even today, even when they don’t have any other way to support themselves, put food on the table, or a roof over their head, have to do this to survive moment to moment day by day. These are incredibly strong women who make difficult choices under the worst of circumstances. I feel like I represent all of those people.”
Portraying this particularly sensitive time in history has proven to be an emotional but audience member of all ages have been responding to the story.
“The audiences across America have been absolutely wonderful. I have met all sorts of people and we have a standing ovation every night. There was a woman I met in D.C. that I have become friends with and her family was one of the families that came over to America. She said the show has helped her understand why her parents are the way they are, and what they experienced. It has helped her understand her parents more.”
The show even has a more authentic Vietnamese influence thanks to cast members Jackie Nguyen and Matthew Overberg who they have helped put some “Vietnamese language into the show, adding more culture to it than they have in the past, even the alter that Kim and Chris use is more authentic.”
For Christine at the end of the day though it’s all about being able to tell this incredible story on stage with her fantastic cast. Her high school theatre self couldn’t be more proud.
“To be in my dream show from when I was in high school- this is the craziest dream came true ever. To start from the beginning with the company playing Gigi and watching these young artists, our Kim’s, the lead Emily Bautista and Myra Molloy the alternate Kim, they are so talented they blow my mind away. They are incredible. So it’s been an honor and a blessing to see these women grow into these beautiful and very strong characters and it’s incredible to be a part of this show.”
The heat is on in Saigon, and it’s coming to Broadway San Diego July 9th – July 14th at the Civic Theatre. For show time and ticket information go to www.broadwaysd.com