Christine Thompson: Congratulations on your lead the role as Kim in Miss Saigon! Was this something that you had planned to do with your life? When did you know you wanted to be on the stage?
Emily Bautista: Oh man, I’ve been singing and dancing around and acting since I was three years old – since I could talk. My mom and dad had that I came out of the womb singing. When I was little, we had a rule at dinner table that you weren’t allowed to sing at the dinner table and if that rule wasn’t a thing. I would have sang 24/7.
It’s always been a huge part of my life. I think I lost some faith when I was auditioning for colleges, I wanted to go for a BFA in musical theater. I auditioned at a good amount of places and was denied from seven out of the eight places. So I re-evaluated because they would always say “if there’s something else you’d be happy doing, go and pursue that” I thought, “well you know what maybe there is. Maybe I should just try some new things.” I had studied a lot of musical theater in high school and that was my main focus So I thought maybe there maybe there is something else I can try.
I love learning new things, but nothing clicked the way musical theater and Broadway performing did. When I auditioned for Miss Saigon Broadway and ended up being offered the position of the understudy, that’s what really took me back into this business. And I was so grateful for that whole process.
Christine Thompson: So you didn’t let that stop you! Seven out of eight rejections and you pressed on! I mean that’s just amazing. Good for you – so many people have to understand how tough this business is… If you were to give a bit of advice for other people that are trying to make it in this business what would you tell them so but what would you say to them?
Emily Bautista: I think that unfortunately not every path is the same. You know, this business is so particular in that way. There’s how many Broadway shows – there’s 40 Broadway shows? There’s only so many leads. Then out of those, how many are you right for. And you know, if you’re a dancer, how many shows are you right for?The chances are so slim, but if you keep working at your craft and training, just know that your path isn’t going to be the same as anyone else’s. You know, you might make your Broadway debut very early or very late. You might start off with differences. It all depends on what you’re right for. So that’s why I think it’s hard to compare different stories to each other.
Christine Thompson: So each person is on an individual path.
Emily Bautista: Yes. I thought, the only way was college, and I have a lot of people that ask me “should I even go to college if I want to be in musical theater?” I always say go to school. But if an opportunity arises, I couldn’t pass down an opportunity like that when I was offered when I was in school. but just know that not every path is the same.
“It’s hard to believe that it has been over 27 years since MISS SAIGON first opened in North America but, if anything, the tragic love story at the heart of the show has become even more relevant today with innocent people being torn apart by war all over the world. – Cameron Mackintosh
Christine Thompson: Definitely. Well. Okay then, so fast forward to what you’re doing right now and let’s talk about Miss Saigon. What do you think of the cultural significance of this story? I mean 30 years ago it was a different story – the Vietnam veterans they came back, they were shunned and they were hissed and they were spit at when they came back to the United States. . My Dad was one, by the way. It was a very unpopular war and terrible things happen in war. So what would you equate the cultural significance of this play?
Emily Bautista: So important that the story is told because it covers both sides of the war. It shows the Vietnamese perspective on it and it also shows the perspective of the American Gis Like you said, it’s not It’s not a war that we’re proud of.. When we were studying the documentaries before going into rehearsal, we realized that, these GIs, were just fighting for their country. They, you know, they didn’t know what exactly they were fighting before, but they were patriotic and some were drafted, So it wasn’t like they had the choice to go or to stay. I think that was an important part of American culture that, you know, it shows that they wanted to fight for our country. Our Chris has a line “I’m an American, how can I fail to do good? it’s so important because as Americans we feel that we need to do good. That’s just part of our culture, as it is in many cultures, to strive to do good.
I think on the Vietnamese perspective side, it’s so important to see that the women in the first scene are in a brothel house. it looks like these women are just selling their bodies, but they’re selling their bodies to survive the war.
Christine Thompson: It was a terrible war. And the point also is those were not usually mature men. They were boys. They were 19, 20.
Emily Bautista: Oh my gosh. Completely. You know, I can’t even imagine. My brother is 18. I can’t ever imagine him going to a country where war he’s fighting but doesn’t know what he’s fighting for. Just going because his government said you have to go. It’s important that we’ve realized that about the Vietnam War. But for the girls, it’s very much that they’re selling themselves to survive the war. There’s the wedding scene where we come back to the cultural roots – we see Kim pray to her parents and see all the girls gathered around her who were just in the brothel house the night before, and they reconnect to their culture.
They’re strong, strong women. They know what they have to do to try to get out of Vietnam, to try to flee the war. But they still stay grounded in their religious beliefs and they put everything on hold to create the ceremony for Chris and Kim so that Kim has this memory and this proof that she is with an American GI.
Christine Thompson: Yeah. That’s very touching. It’s heartrending. Let’s talk about the relationship between Chris and Kim and how that’s like The Madame Butterfly, and other stories of star-crossed lovers. The great stories of, of love that was never meant to be, or was meant to be for a short time. The fruit of the union. You know it’s the story of humankind, basically. Do you think that that’s what makes it resonate after all this time with everyone?
Emily Bautista: I have a line in the show.” I’ve known love beyond all fear.” And you know, it. And when my director and I were talking about he asked what do you think that means? And I said, past racism, past cultural differences. Their love story shows, well you said it, love that was only meant to be for a short time and it’s, and it’s not an easy love that they have. They find each other in this, this very destructive place, but they keep each other grounded and they, and they’re able to feel love and feel comfort and support through each other. I think, I think they both offer each other a lot of healthy comfort. I think that there are still prejudices out in the world and even though we’ve progressed so much, it’s still an issue. It’s still a topic. I remember when I was in high school, we did Hairspray and they were saying that somewhere in another state they were having their first mixed dance ever. That was only eight years ago!
Christine Thompson: Wow, that’s a little backwards.
Emily Bautista: Yeah. I was a little bit backwards, but it still happens in our world. I think our show is saying to forget that. Go to the love, go to the feelings, go to the passion that is there behind color of skin and behind cultural differences.
Christine Thompson: There are so many messages that can be taken from this play, but is that the main theme you want people to take from this – the overreaching theme of love?
Emily Bautista: Our story is set during the war and I think it’s so important to know that love still exists even in those was broken places. I think it’s so important that we walk away after the play, we know that even at the lowest of our lows, love is something that still persists.