Over time, Monique's evolution into a more socially-committed artist with a bent for edgy, cause-oriented theater occasioned a more ambivalent attitude in her toward the role that first brought her international fame. At least that's what I gathered from a video interview I did with her in late 2007, where I asked if she could imagine herself doing the musical again.
No, she said. There's a time and place for everything. “But If I was gonna try and direct it, that might be an interesting thing to do.”
So how would she reimagine Miss Saigon?
“I would be more conscious of the reality of the Asian women onstage. In my time, 1989, and no offense to anyone who did the show, we were also not politicized ourselves. We thought bar girls loved what they were doing and they were just dancing to hook up with guys...
“Later on, we started doing 'The Vagina Monologues' and I got older and I became a feminist and I became more politicized, I started to realize that these women are doing these things for economic reasons. They’re not there to enjoy themselves. That gives you a much deeper context of the lives of these women who are in that kind of profession, like prostitution... Of course when we’re 18 or 19, we don’t see that...
“So if I was to have my hands on 'Miss Saigon' now, maybe directorially, I would give more weight to that: what drives a woman to do that in the first place and not to romanticize or glamorize this desire to wed a GI or a white man... I think Hollywood has romanticized that so much. It’s not as romantic as it sounds. Sometimes there probably would have been real love there, but there would have been a huge need also...”
That video interview is here. On the other hand, this live performance of I Still Believe (with Imelda De Los Reyes singing the part of Ellen) and You Will Not Touch Him (with Jojo Dela Cerna as Thuy) came from a cassette tape-to-CD recording of the concert called The Music of Boublil-Schonberg, held at the CCP in March 1995. In the Les Miserables suite in Act II, Monique would reappear as Madame Thenardier in Master of the House, in tandem with Chinggoy Alonzo. But that's for another post. (More about the concert here.)
Note: The last few orchestral bars of This Is The Hour got cut off. I know--as Roderick Paulate would say, “Andun na e, andun na!” If it's any consolation, the chorus work (by the all-Filipino ensemble) is intact. I'll get better at this mystifying audio editing thang, promise. Enjoy the clip!
P.S. Faust, Philippe, Fred and Jane from NY, because you guys specifically requested I Still Believe, this track is for you.