Ms. Saigon-Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil-Kimberly Lamping

In April 1975 at "Dreamland," a sleazy Vietnamese club, shortly before the Fall of Saigon, it is Kim's first day as a bargirl. The seventeen-year-old orphan is greeted by the Engineer, a French-Vietnamese man who owns the club. Backstage, the girls ready themselves for the night's show, jeering at Kim's naïveté ("Overture"). The U.S. Marines, aware that they will be leaving Vietnam soon, party with the Vietnamese prostitutes at the club ("The Heat Is on in Saigon").

In April 1975 at “Dreamland,” a sleazy Vietnamese club, shortly before the Fall of Saigon, it is Kim’s first day as a bargirl. The seventeen-year-old orphan is greeted by the Engineer, a French-Vietnamese man who owns the club. Backstage, the girls ready themselves for the night’s show, jeering at Kim’s naïveté (“Overture”). The U.S. Marines, aware that they will be leaving Vietnam soon, party with the Vietnamese prostitutes at the club (“The Heat Is on in Saigon”).

Miss Saigon is a musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil. It is based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, and tells a similar tale of a woman being abandoned by her lover. However, the setting of the plot is relocated to the 1970s Saigon during the Vietnam War, and Madame Butterfly’s story of marriage between an American lieutenant and a Japanese girl is replaced by a romance between an American GI and a Vietnamese bar girl. Many people feel that Ms. Saigon romanticizes prostitution and that it misrepresents Asian women. Despite this controversy, Ms. Saigon is one of Boublil and Schonberg’s longest running and most popular musicals.

Claude-Michel Schönberg (born 6 July 1944 in Vannes) is a French record producer, actor, singer, songwriter, and musical theatre composer. He is best known for his collaborations with lyricist Alain Boublil. His major works include La Révolution Française (1973), Les Misérables (1980), Miss Saigon (1989), Martin Guerre (1996), The Pirate Queen (2006), and Marguerite (2008). However, there are several projects Schonberg worked on that were less popular or not recognized. For example, in 2001 he composed his first ballet score, Wuthering Heights, which was created by the Northern Ballet Theatre in September 2002. Music seems to run in Schonberg’s family. His father was an organ repairer and his mother was a piano tuner.

Alain Boublil (born 1941) is a musical theatre lyricist and librettist and is best known for his collaborations with the composer Claude-Michel Schönberg for musicals on Broadway and London’s West End. Boublil was born in Tunisia, to a Sephardic Jewish family. Boublil’s first musical, La Révolution Française, was the first-ever staged French rock opera. It was conceived by Boublil in 1973 after he watched the premiere of Jesus Christ Superstar in New York. The composer was Claude-Michel Schönberg, with whom Alain has since collaborated on a number of successful projects, including Les Misérables and Miss Saigon.

One of Boublil and Schonberg’s longest running and most popular musicals is Ms. Saigon. The musical represented Schönberg and Boublil’s second major success, following Les Misérables in 1985. However, despite its success, Miss Saigon stirred up a lot of controversy. Many people believe that it misrepresents and lies about Asian women and forced prostitution. Many believe that Miss Saigon romanticizes prostitution. Despite the controversy surrounding this musical, Miss Saigon is still the twelfth longest-running Broadway musical in musical theatre history as of September of 2013.

Works Cited

“Claude-Michel Schönberg .” Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.

“American Theatre Wing – Biography – Claude-Michel Schönberg.” American Theatre Wing – Biography – Claude-Michel Schönberg. N.p., 1 May 2007. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.

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