The heat is on in Saigon as Miss Saigon makes its way to the Academy of Music for its Philadelphia premiere. Stacie Bono is starring in the new award-winning production by Cameron Mackintosh. Playing the role of Ellen, Bono’s character is the wife of Chris, a Vietnam veteran. Ellen is dealing with her husband’s PTSD while coping with an inadvertent love triangle. The show includes the incredible musical score, epic love story, and the largest touring cast currently on the road. In addition, the famous on-stage helicopter has also been updated with technical advances that were not available during the original 1990’s production. Bono talks about the show and her preparation for the role.
Miss Saigon will play at the Academy of Music on March 19-31, 2019.
Debra Danese: What was your first exposure to Miss Saigon?
Stacie Bono: I don’t recall the exact moment I first heard Miss Saigon, but my childhood memories are filled with moments of me belting out “I Still Believe” and “I’d Give My Life For You.” There was no doubt in my mind that one day I would play Kim.
DD: What attracted you to the role of Ellen?
SB: Ellen is a very challenging role and I’m always eager to tackle a challenge. Although she is faultless, she is commonly viewed as the villain of the story as it’s her existence that denies Kim her happy ending. We really only have about 20 minutes onstage with Ellen, so it’s extremely difficult with that limited amount of time to show the audience all the different facets of the emotions she is juggling as her husband’s betrayal is revealed. I also strive to portray her as a fully flushed out human in that 20 minutes, finding moments where Ellen can smile or laugh so she is not just all drama. The story packs much more of a punch if Ellen is a sympathetic, compassionate woman put in a horrible situation rather than someone digging her claws into her man and cursing the universe for her circumstances.
DD: How did you prepare for the role of Ellen and what type of research did you do on PTSD?
SB: There is very little text about Ellen in the script, so a lot of my prep work was developing her backstory. It fascinated me how this woman was so tolerant of her husband’s outbursts and lack of communication – and she was dealing with this before the discovery of PTSD in 1980. My instinct was that Ellen had experienced this kind of trauma before with someone else she had loved deeply, her father, which gave her understanding and patience for her husband’s suffering.
DD:What song or moment in the show do you think best captures who your character is?
SB: Ellen’s new song, “Maybe,” really encapsulates her intense love and selflessness. The moment before the song, she is confronted with the news that her husband has been lying to her their entire marriage and he was not only in love with, but married to this other woman they have come to Bangkok to find. Instead of clenching her fists and vowing to stake her claim on her husband, through the song, Ellen comes to the place of understanding that if being with Kim is what will finally heal Chris and make him happy, she will let him go.
DD: What qualities do you have in common with Ellen?
SB: I wish I could say I possessed Ellen’s selflessness, but alas, I’m an actor. Although, my trade has definitely helped me develop a heightened ability to empathize with others, a trait Ellen shares. I also strive to always look on the bright side and have faith that things will turn out alright, and that is one of Ellen’s best attributes.
DD: How would you describe Miss Saigon to someone who has never seen it before?
SB: Miss Saigon is an epic story of the survival of love during the tumultuous Vietnam War. The romantic love within the story is life-altering for both lovers, but the truly profound love within the show is that of mother and son. The story itself is beautiful but enhanced by the gorgeous score. It is truly awe-inspiring. Also, it has a super cool helicopter.
[Academy of Music] March 19-31, 2019; kimmelcenter.org