Just shy of a year since its opening night, the Broadway revival of Boublil and Schönberg's Miss Saigon will land its final helicopter on January 14. For stars Eva Noblezada and Jon Jon Briones, though, this journey started long before they stepped onto the stage of the Broadway Theatre.
Together, the pair premiered this revival production in 2014 at London's Prince Edward Theatre, leading the 25th anniversary West End revival company and being immortalized on film in a definitive recording of the production. Noblezada was 17 when she first started rehearsals; now 21, she's a Tony nominee for her performance as Kim. Briones, meanwhile, has the distinction of having played the Engineer about 3,000 times in various productions of Miss Saigon. They've both grown up in (and with) this show, which makes saying goodbye to it all the more difficult.
1. What is your favorite line that you get to say?
Jon Jon Briones: "With little sh*ts like him, you take the bucks and run."
2. What is the best inside joke from among the company?
Eva Noblezada: They made an announcement about not playing hide-and-seek and none of us knew what they were talking about.
Jon Jon: Because the ensemble were hiding and scaring people backstage.
Eva: We were like "What? Who has time for that?"
3. What was the worst technical difficulty you experienced during the show and how was it handled?
Eva: At the end of the show, Kim dies, Chris screams, and there's a blackout that gives us time to exit the stage. I don't know what happened with the lighting, but the whole back of the stage lit up. All of the people onstage, the leads, were exiting. You could see me get up after I die, and I'm not kidding, the first half of the theater gasped because they had just seen me die and saw me get up. So I died again. That was really bad.
4. What was the most "interesting" present someone gave you at the stage door?
Eva: I had a weird guy in London who would send me gifts at the stage door three times a week. He'd say, "My queen has asked me to drop things off for her." It was so weird. It eventually stopped, when I left. [laughs]
5. Who is the coolest person to come see your show?
Jon Jon: My American Crime Story family.
Eva: Matt Bomer.
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6. Eva, what is the best piece of advice you received from Lea Salonga, who originated the role?
One of the first things she said to me was to enjoy the ride. I didn't understand it, but especially at times like this, where we're about to close after a long ride, for me that just speaks volumes.
7. Jon Jon, you've played the Engineer in various productions over 3,000 times, and started in the ensemble of the original cast when you were in college. What is the key to keeping your performances fresh?
It sounds like a joke or a corny thing, but it's respect for the stage, for your fellow actors, for what you built with the creatives, and for the audience. You just appreciate the hard-earned money used to come see us. It's all those things, and to always think about a person, even just one, who's going to see the show for the first time, and as soon as they hear the helicopter, go "it's starting!" That just carries me through.
8. Eva, when you started this journey, you were 17, and now you're 21. Kim goes through that same trajectory in the show. How has your Kim evolved, as you've gotten older?
On the first day, it was terrible. What's crazy is that I thought it was the best I could do. I didn't know anything. I was learning how to do life and professional theater at the same time. I didn't know how to do my laundry or what an accountant was. I was getting my life together on and off stage. We've grown up together, Kim and I, and she's the other half of me. I wouldn't just say it's improved, but my understanding of how to be a performer, and how to be completely vulnerable, has grown 10 times more than I thought I would ever. And how could you not, working with people like Jon Jon?
9. Have you watched the filmed version of the London production, and what are your reactions?
Jon Jon: I was so nervous. I was tense the whole time. It was so hard not to criticize my performance. But at the same time, it was such a good show. We actually saw what people saw that special evening, and it was satisfying.
Eva: I had to watch it because I was going on holiday and they needed to do press in London. They had a private screening, and I was between Rachelle Ann Go and my husband, and I hated my performance.
Jon Jon: She's being too hard.
Eva: I couldn't fully enjoy it. But I watched it recently here and I bawled the whole time and laughed in moments that weren't funny, because I'm so proud.
10. Have you taken a ride in the helicopter?
Jon Jon: No!
Eva: We deserve a ride in the helicopter after all this time. I want to be the pilot. I've asked about five times.
Jon Jon: What did they say?
Eva: "Well, we'll have to see."
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