Compared to other 1980s mega-musicals like The Phantom Of The Opera, Cats, and Les Mis, Miss Saigon is probably slightly less of a household name. But it’s beloved in the theater community for one thing in particular: Giving the world Lea Salonga. The then 18-year-old star burst onto the scene as Kim, the young prostitute at the center of the Vietnam War-set retelling of Madame Butterfly. After winning a Tony for the role, Salonga went on to tackle more Broadway roles (including most recently in George Takei’s Allegiance) and maintain an illustrious career across Asia (she’s about to star in the Manila production of Fun Home). Even those not familiar with Broadway may recognize her voice, as she performed the songs for not one but two Disney princesses (both Jasmine in Aladdin and the title role in Mulan).
And just in time for the Miss Saigon’s 25th Anniversary (it premiered on Broadway April 11, 1991) as well as the upcoming Broadway revival (set to open in spring 2017), Salonga made a brief return to the show for the MCC Theater Miscast gala, an event where performers take on roles they’d never be able to play due to race, gender, or age. So instead of performing one of Kim’s songs, Salonga tackled the most famous male number from the show, “Why, God, Why?”
Naturally she sounds incredible and looks pretty snazzy in her bedazzled suit, too. Meanwhile, for a look at just how far she’s come, here’s one of Salonga’s original auditions for Miss Saigon circa 1988:
We also want to point out to those who don’t regularly troll YouTube for musical theater performances (what do you do with your time, then?) that the Miscast gala is a treasure trove of great stuff. For instance, Tina Fey joined Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Titus Burgess to duet on “You’re Nothing Without Me” from City Of Angels:
Grease Live!’s Aaron Tveit and Gavin Creel tackled the lesbian duet from Rent:
And three adorable boys put their own spin on “The Schuyler Sisters” from Hamilton: