Abigail Adriano: Telling Miss Saigon to a New Generation

Filipino-Australian theater actress Abigail Adriano talks to Modern Parenting about playing Kim, channeling the motherly instinct, and why the show remains relevant for Asian families.

Miss Saigon has captivated theater audiences worldwide since it burst onto the scene in 1989 when the Philippines’ very own Lea Salonga won the hearts of many for playing the role of Kim, a Vietnamese bar girl who fell in love with a G.I officer during the Vietnam war. It has since launched the careers of several Filipino actors and actresses such as Monique Wilson, Isay Alvarez, Robert Seña, Jonjon Briones, Cocoy Laurel, Pinky Amador, Jenine Desiderio, Rachelle Ann Go, and Eva Noblezada, and more.

Just last March, the production returned to Philippine shores—led by Filipino-Australian theater actress Abigal Adriano and Sean Moore. In this exclusive feature, Modern Parenting spoke to Abigail about reconnecting with her roots, channeling her maternal instinct, and why the story remains relevant in today’s setting.

The Role of a lifetime

Kim has been immortalized by many Filipino actresses, which was why when Abigail first got the part, it was like a dream come true.

“You know, Kim is such an iconic role and it is also my dream role,” Abigail said. “I’m Filipino and I grew up in Australia and yet the effects of Miss Saigon since its inception 35 years ago [are still felt]. It still has its effects on the younger generation today.”

“I think when I finally got to perform for Filipino audiences—an audience [who] knew all the Filipino actresses before me…the incredible alumni before me…it was rewarding for me because I know some people may see it as, you know, a challenge or lots of pressure on my shoulders.”

She added: “I think I have a very strong sense of duty to perform Kim and to tell her story and give justice to her story because all the people sitting in the audience can relate to this story. And it’s such a powerful story of love, motherhood, and survival.”

Channeling a motherly instinct

Playing the role of Kim required tapping into a lot of experience that she has yet to go through, most especially motherhood. But how did she do it?

“I think stepping into Kim’s shoes has helped me understand [her]. I think I won’t know what it will be like until I’m a mom. But throughout our entire rehearsal process, when I was given the role of Kim, I remember our director and Cameron Mackintosh, [the creator of Miss Saigon], saying to me that it takes a level of maturity to play this role,” she explained.

Equipped with tools and stories given to her, Abigail was able to make Kim her own. “You can’t learn from reading a textbook, but it’s just something that comes out of you as an actor when you’re on that stage. And I think I felt that motherly-like connection the first time I worked with the Tams in the rehearsal space.”

For Abigail, loving kids and coming from a big Filipino family helped her a lot. “There are a lot of babies in my family whom I’ve had to help take care of growing up in Sydney.  And I feel like doing Kim and working with kids has helped me so much.”

Reconnecting with her Filipino roots

Aside from performing for the Filipinos, coming to Manila allowed Abigail to reconnect with family members who were based in the country.

“I definitely got to reconnect with family who are still based in the Philippines,” Abigail smiled. “A lot of them traveled from the province to come and see the show. And I have some family who are based in Manila as well. We would meet for lunch and then they would watch the show.”

“And it was always like, it’s just so special for them and super emotional for them because my family isn’t a theater family. They’re just a regular family. So being the lead role in this iconic production for them was just something they never imagined for me,” she added.

Abigail Adriano plays the role of Kim in Miss Saigon 2024
Photo from abigailadrianoo Instagram

Miss Saigon’s relevance today

Family is ingrained in Asian society and to date, the lessons from Miss Saigon are something every Filipino including Asians can relate to and learn from.

“I’ve done Miss Saigon over like 150 times in Australia. And I can say that I think everyone in the cast can agree that when we performed here [in] Manila, it had a different response from every other place that we did in Australia,” she explained.

“I think it’s because when we came to Manila the themes of the show are still relevant and still near and dear to our hearts because we can still see it around us,” she continued. “I think the show is 100% so much more relatable in Asia—not only because we’ve got a myriad of Asian performers on the stage, but because I remember in our rehearsal process, every single one of us, like myself, come from an immigrant family.” 

Aside from the issue of family, the stories of women like Kim and Gigi are something that also hit close to home. “I think for newer generations, new theatergoers, and new girls like me sitting in the audience, seeing that being reflected in front of them is also a really powerful message.”

What Abigail wants to do next

As Miss Saigon wraps up its Manila run, what’s next for Abigail?

She admitted that she always thought of becoming a lawyer until she got the gig. But with the momentum from Miss Saigon, it looked like performing was still on the table. “I wanted to continue doing theater for a while and performing at least,” she mused. “You know, I love acting equally as much as I love singing. And I think if I can do that for as long as I can, I will.”

“Another dream show for me is Les Miserables. I would love to be Eponine one day. Oh, I would love to be a Disney princess,” she grinned. 

“I just think I’m going to do as much as I can to continue working hard in the industry.”

Feel the Heat of Miss Saigon!

Miss Saigon PH: A Love Letter From the Parents of the Year 2000 to the Kids of the Year 2024

Miss Saigon 2024 “Returns” the Cast Home to The Philippines

Auditions for the Role of Tam, Kim’s Child

Catch Miss Saigon at Solaire Theatre from March 23, 2024, to May 12, 2024.

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