uch buzz has been given to next year’s West End revival of the critically acclaimed and box office hit musical “Miss Saigon.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary next year, the revival’s cast includes pop superstar Rachelle Ann Go, who will fly to London to play the hardened Saigon bar girl Gigi, and Jon Jon Briones, who was part of the original West End cast among several other productions of “Miss Saigon,” who will reprise his role the Engineer.

US-born Fil-Am Eva Noblezada has been cast in the role of Kim. Julia Abueva (currently in Resorts World Manila’s “Cinderella”) and Tanya Manalang (recently in Resorts World Manila’s “The King and I”) have been cast in the ensemble and could possibly be tapped as understudies for Kim.

Lea Salonga originated Kim in the original 1989 West End run of Miss Saigon.  Aside from Salonga, there have been other Filipinas who have played Kim in the numerous stagings of the musical. Let’s take a look at 8 of them as we await the 2014 staging.


Leila Florentino was born in the Philippines but has been living in New York since 1984. She was 27 years old when she started playing the role of Kim for “Miss Saigon”’s Broadway run in 1992. Imagine being 27 and passing off as 17!



“Most people may not be too familiar with “That’s Entertainment” mainstay Caselyn Francisco, let alone her performance as Kim in the 1994 German production of “Miss Saigon.” It might not have been as big or as well advertised as the West End and Broadway productions, but you know how Caselyn stood out from the rest? She sang and played Kim in German.



Castro was based in London for around 10 years, having been married to David Greenway, the Chris to her Kim, for four years.

She took over the role for Lea in 2001 in the Manila run at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and continued on for the show’s Asian tour in Hong Kong and Singapore and in the two-year UK tour.

She was recently seen as the mother of Tarzan in Atlantis Productions’ “Disney’s Tarzan.”



When we mention Jenine Desiderio, we eventually think of her once famous single “Darna” which was actually a direct translation of the Karyn White single “Superwoman.”

What most people are amazed to find out is that she also played Kim in Theatre Royal Drury Lane  from 1989-1993.  She was 18 and a pre-med student when she auditioned. She was first asked to understudy the roles of Kim and Gigi.

She turned down the 14-month contract three times because she was very much in love with her then boyfriend.  She eventually came around.

Desiderio was recently seen as Oryol in Tanghalang Pilipino’s “Ibalong.”



Jamie Rivera is known to be a gospel-singing sweetheart.  Her more famous songs are the “Jubilee song” and “Tell the World of His Love.”  She even sang for Pope John Paul II himself.

But before she became the inspirational diva, she flew to London to take over Lea Salonga’s role.  She played Kim until 1993.



Ma-anne won a nationwide talent search in the Philippines in the late ’80s and was on her way to a promising career when her family decided to move to Canada.

All was well still, as the producers for the Canadian run of “Miss Saigon” asked her to audition for the role of Kim after seeing her perform in the TV presentation of “Experience Canada.”

She played Kim in the 1993 Toronto run and, two years later, did the Australia and London run. In 2003 she was asked to reprise the role in Pittsburgh for the Civic Light Opera.  Her journey as Kim didn’t stop there as she returned to do the 2010 Toronto run.  She was then 36.

She was also the second Filipina to play Eponine in “Les Miserables” in the Asian and the third U.S. national tour of the production.



Joana was 17 when she started living alone in London where Miss Saigon was being staged.  She played Kim from 1993-1995 in London, and then again in the touring production from 2001-2002.  She has then been seen playing roles of such memorable women in musical theater namely, Mary Magdalene in “Jesus Christ Superstar,”  Eponine and Fantine in “Les Miserables,”  Maria in “West Side Story” and currently as Grizabella in the 2013 UK/Europe touring production of “Cats.”

She was recently seen as Maria in Resorts World Manila’s “The Sound of Music.”



Monique was 17 when she auditioned for Miss Saigon.  She enrolled at the University of the Philippines and majored in theater but had to cut her education short when she was asked to join the 1989 production.

She was originally slated to play the alternate Kim and Mimi in the original staging.  She then carried on to play the Main Kim from 1990-1992.  After three years in the West End, she came home to the Philippines, did several movies, TV shows, produced an album and won several awards.

Eventually, she enrolled at the London Academy of Dramatic Arts to complete her drama training.  She also graduated with distinction at the Central School of Speech and Drama where she finished her Masters degree in Theater.

She was recently seen as Anna in Resorts World Manila’s “The King and I.”

Who are your favorite Pinay theater actresses? Let’s talk about them in the Comments Section.

Yna Santonil

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