Thoughts on How We Experience Theater before Seeing Miss Saigon Tonight

Tonight I am super excited to see the second preview of Miss Saigon. I’ve been waiting to see this revival for years and already have tickets to return two more times. But you will probably be surprised to know that Miss Saigon is not my favorite musical. I don’t even consider it in my top tier of favorite musicals. Sunday in the Park with George is one of my favorite musicals, and it is also in what is supposed to be an amazing revival, which I’m seeing in a few more weeks.

But I’m way more excited for the Miss Saigon revival. Why? I think it has to do with how I experienced both shows as a young person, one in live performance and one on video. I’ve written my thoughts on filmed productions before, albeit in a different context, and I really think there is something to how we experience theater as a young person and how that affects how we experience the same piece as an adult.

When I was 9 my mother took me to see Miss Saigon. She got me out of school, and it was a magical day that included the stage door, the show itself, and a backstage tour given by one of the swings, Leonard. I have no photos from that day but it lives in my memory as part of my mythology.

In contrast, I discovered Sunday in the Park with George on VHS, which is the original production, when I was about 15, a sophomore in high school. I became so enamored with it that I watched it and listened to the CD constantly. I related so much to the characters–it probably helped me through my adolescence now that I think back on it. I saw the 2008 revival, which was fine. I hear this revival is really good and I’m looking forward to seeing it, but I’m not excited about it, I think because my love for that show has nothing to do with being in the room with it.

So to quote my other blog post about this idea, when we preserve a production, are we, in a small way, ruining that magic of seeing it live? I am so grateful for the filmed production of Sunday in the Park with George, but it does affect how I experience the show now. I enjoy watching it on video (now DVD) and listening to it, but man, I can’t wait to be in the theater tonight to experience Miss Saigon again.

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