Miss Saigon and Wharton Center: Then and Now

It has been over 20 years since the original production of Miss Saigon opened in North America, and even longer since its premiere in London, but the tragic love story that is the focus of the show has become even more relevant in today’s war-torn world. Miss Saigon tells the tragic tale of Kim, a Vietnamese woman, and Chris, an American G.I., who meet and fall in love amongst the chaos of the Vietnam War. The show features a vast international cast of Asian and Western performers, and visually stunning sets. Crowds across America will be able to see one of the most spectacular musicals ever written, in a new production directed by Laurence Connor.

Recently, I had the privilege to sit down with Bob Hoffman, Wharton Center’s Public Relations Manager, who was lucky enough to see the original tour of Miss Saigon when it toured through Wharton Center in the 1997-98 season. He discussed with me some in-depth details about the original production, the new production, and the interaction Miss Saigon has had with Wharton Center.


Bob Hoffman with the Miss Saigon semi-truck in 1997


Hoffman with the semi-truck March 12, 2019, 22 years later.







Q: Can you tell us more about the original production of Miss Saigon compared to the new production?

A: I was captivated the first time I saw Miss Saigon at Wharton Center in the late 90s.  I remember leaving the theatre feeling the need to discuss the show.  It’s powerful, and the characters came to life for me.

When I saw the new production in New York last year, I had the same reaction.  I left the theatre telling my husband, “That was the best Broadway show I’ve ever seen.” I’m serious!  It absolutely is one of my favorites.  I had an emotional, visceral reaction that stayed with me for days.


Q: What parts of the new production are you most impressed with?

A: There are so many things about the production I’m impressed with.  I remember my heart racing during many of the scenes because war comes to life. You hear the awful sounds of war; you feel the emotional pull; you become part of the show.  I identified with the characters, too.  Love is so powerful. Love can make you do things you normally might not.  Miss Saigon grabbed me from the moment the curtain came up. It took me on a tour of Saigon and reminded me of how powerful the human condition is; it taught me history and tore my heart into pieces.


Q: What was Wharton Center like then?

A: I remember when Miss Saigon opened at Wharton Center in the 90s thinking this is great for East Lansing.  I had been out of college for a few years and didn’t attend many Wharton events.  I didn’t realize that I could.  At that time, I assumed Wharton Center was for “older,” more established professionals. I feel like I really missed out.

I wish they had NextGen back in the 90s when I was starting out.  I would have absolutely been a part of the group.  It reminds me of a lesson I’ve learned since:  never assume, ask instead!


Q: What has changed about Wharton Center in the last 20 years?

A: I’m so proud of what Wharton Center represents and our mission to inspire the mind and move the soul. It’s much more than just an amazing show or concert you see on stage. Wharton Center offers the opportunity to be part of something larger than yourself. To meet people with shared interests. Wharton Center is a conversation- and friendship-starter. I have the best job in the world, and I wake up every day saying, “WOW!  This really is my life.”  I get to go to work (although it’s really not work for me, it’s fun) and interact with creative and fun people.


Miss Saigon runs the entire week of March 12-17 at Wharton Center. $29 student tickets are available. You can purchase tickets here. Don’t forget to also like us on Facebook here and follow our Instagram here and our Twitter here.

Posted in Wharton Center News

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