The national touring company of "Miss Saigon" will open a nine-month run at the Ahmanson Theatre on Jan. 15, 1995, producer Cameron Mackintosh and the Center Theatre Group announced Monday.
It will be the first show to play the Ahmanson after the hall's $17-million reconfiguration is completed. In scale, it will be larger than the New York production and closer to the size of the original London staging.
Los Angeles casting of the leading roles in the mega-musical, which tells the story of a Vietnamese-American romance during the fall of Saigon in 1975, has not yet been set.
In the summer of 1990, a storm of controversy arose when Mackintosh cast Jonathan Pryce, who had created the leading role of the Engineer in London, in the Broadway "Saigon." Prompted by Asian-American activists' protests that a white actor was playing a Eurasian role, Actors' Equity forbade Mackintosh from importing Pryce. Mackintosh responded by canceling the entire production, but Equity quickly reversed its position, and the production opened with Pryce on April 11, 1991.
Since Pryce left the cast, most of the actors who have played the Engineer in New York and elsewhere have been Asian or Asian-American. The current national tour includes Raul Aranas, a Filipino-American, as the Engineer, and Jennifer C. Paz, who was born in the Philippines but raised in the United States, in the title role.
"We've got two or three actors in mind" for the leading roles, Mackintosh said, "but we won't make a decision until the summer." Pryce will not play the part here since he will be playing Fagin in Mackintosh's upcoming revival of "Oliver!" in London, but the original female lead, Lea Salonga, is "not out of the question" for L.A. Are Aranas and Paz candidates? "I suppose they are," replied Mackintosh, but he added that he also likes to give actors breaks after they have spent a long time on the road.
"It's a wait-and-see situation," said Guy Lee, a Los Angeles casting agent who was a protester of the Pryce casting. "If they try any of their non-traditional casting, I'd be opposed."
Another Pryce protester, actor Ernest Harada, said the Asian-American activists can take credit for the fact that most of the post-Pryce Engineers have been Asian or Asian-Americans. "Otherwise I'm sure they would have gone with stars, and if it's a star part, they always think around (Asian-American actors)."
The run will be cut short by the necessity to return the 1995-96 Ahmanson subscription season to its home base after several years of temporary use of the Doolittle Theatre. Mackintosh acknowledged that "Saigon" probably could run as long as 18 months without this restriction. But he didn't argue the length of the run with the Center Theatre Group, he said, "because I totally see their point of view."
"Saigon" will be the second show in the 1994-95 Ahmanson subscription season. All of the other shows will be presented at the Doolittle. Tickets will go on sale in 1994.