Miss Saigon opened in New York on April 11, 1991 to favorable reviews but not without some heated controversy. The Asian-American community objected strenuously when it was revealed that a British actor, Jonathan Pryce, would be portraying the crucial role of The Engineer, a Vietnamese black marketeer. The production was also one of the first on Broadway to attract audiences via huge special effects; the "fall of Saigon" sequence spectacularly recreates the sight and sounds of helicopter being flown in from the roof of the theater.
Lea Salonga (a Filipino-American) originally portrayed the Vietnamese woman who falls for an American G.I., bears his child, and becomes stranded in the war torn nation. Both Salonga and Pryce won Tony Awards, but the musical itself lost out to The Will Rogers Follies.
With the nine lives of Cats ending in June, Miss Saigon will be legendary producer Cameron Mackintosh's second long-running musical to shut its doors this year. Mackintosh can find consolation in the continued strength of his other two long-running mega-productions; The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables.
At its closing, Miss Saigon will have played 4,063 performances and grossed more than $264 million. It is estimated to have been seen by almost six million theatergoers.