"Miss Saigon," the controversial $10 million musical from London, formally opened on Broadway with a record $35 million-plus in advance sales and troubles with protesters right up to curtain time.
About 100 people from organizations representing Asian-American actors and other anti-discrimination groups protested Thursday at the Broadway Theater before the curtain went up on the most expensive Broadway production ever, with tickets at an unprecedented $100 tops.The demonstrators said they were protesting casting of non-Asians in Asian roles, as well as what they termed trivialization of the Vietnam War and romanticization of prostitution in the show, which updates the Madame Butterfly story, setting it in the last days of the war.
They chanted, "Miss Saigon has got to go" and waved banners claiming discrimination against Asians as well as against gays and lesbians.
The Shubert Organization, owner of the theater, laid on special security, and an extra police detail was assigned to the theater to keep pickets behind extensive barricades.
Among the first-night ticketholders were Henry Kissinger, Bernadette Peters, Charleton Heston, David Geffen, John Malkovich, Chita Rivera, Placido Domingo and Calvin Klein.
"Miss Saigon" had played to 19 preview audiences before the curtain went up on what is euphemistically referred to in showbiz as the "first night" performance.
The opening ended a year of controversy during which the show was withdrawn from Broadway by producer Cameron Mackintosh, then reinstated.
The show was written by Claude-Michel Schonberg and composed by Alain Boublil, the French team responsible for "Les Miserables," still running on Broadway after five years. "Miss Saigon" was an instant success when it opened in London in September 1989, and Mackintosh announced five months later that he would bring it to New York.
Mackintosh ran into a storm of protest from a coalition of Asian-American actors when he insisted on bringing the caucasian star of the London production, Jonathan Pryce, to New York in the lead role of a Eurasian pimp, instead of hiring an Asian-American actor.
Another bone of contention was Mackintosh's insistence on bringing the female star, young Filipino actress Lea Salonga, to reprise her London role of a bar girl in love with an American G.I.