With thousands of dollars of fancy lighting, a specially adapted script and no shortage of content that toes the line of what’s appropriate at school, Enloe High School theater students are ready to put on the show of their lives.
Enloe is one of three high schools across the country to present “Miss Saigon” this spring. The show opens Wednesday.
The musical tells the story of a troubled romance between a Vietnamese woman and an American soldier in the 1970s.
Enloe, along with schools in Nebraska and New Hampshire, bought the rights to a special version of “Miss Saigon” that was edited to be appropriate for school productions, according to Music Theatre International, which licenses the show.
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With its mature content and advanced production requirements, “Miss Saigon” is one of the more ambitious productions a high school theater program could attempt.
“It’s a challenge to present it in an honest and sensitive way,” said Bailey Lee, an Enloe senior who plays the main character, Kim.
The musical explores what happens after Kim and Chris, an American soldier, fall in love during the Vietnam War. Chris returns to the United States, leaving Kim with their child.
Lee and her co-star, junior Trey Fitts, said they researched the history behind the story to better understand their characters.
“It requires so much from the actors and the audience,” Fitts said.
In addition to tackling the content, the musical requires complex sets, lighting and quite a few more resources than the theater department had on hand, Enloe theater teacher Koko Thornton said.
Most musicals have dialogue between songs, Thornton said. But “Miss Saigon” is structured like an opera, using music to carry the story along without much dialogue.
So orchestra and band students, who accompany the theater department for musicals, have to play the entirety of the three-hour production.
“Everything that makes musical theater difficult is heightened,” Thornton said.
Enloe, a magnet school, brought in a local set designer to help, Thornton said. Other than that, students took on the extra work.
The light director, senior Joshua Schwartzman, lobbied Wake County schools for money to rent and purchase extra lighting.
For stage manager Michelle McGoogan, also a senior, figuring out how to seamlessly change the set was a complicated dance.
Students also had to work around some inappropriate parts of the show.
“It’s a little racier, so we’ve had to approach it cautiously,” McGoogan said.
Mentions of bikini-clad prostitutes were taken out of the script, and Thornton removed some words from the lyrics.
The extra work and money will be worth it, Schwartzman said.
“This is going to be close to a professional production,” he said. “I think it’s going to be the best production yet.”
Want to go?
Enloe Theatre will present “Miss Saigon” at 7 p.m. April 8-11 at Enloe High School, 128 Clarendon Crescent, Raleigh. Tickets are $8 for students and $10 for adults and can be purchased online at enloetheatre.wix.com/enloetheatre.