The heat is on! A quick chat with Vivien Emsworth and Marcus Rivera from Miss Saigon!

With a cast of over 50, Packemin Productions’ Miss Saigon is currently playing at Riverside Theatres in Parramatta. We caught up with stars Vivien Emsworth (Kim) and Marcus Rivera (The Engineer) to talk about the staggering story, the emotional rollercoaster and the joy of revisiting such complex characters in Boublil and Schönberg’s epic musical.

A quick chat with Vivien Emsworth

Vivien Emsworth

You’ve performed Kim before in several productions of Miss Saigon. What drew you to this role and what keeps you coming back to it?

Yes, I first performed as Kim in my third year at the Conservatorium in Brisbane 2013, and a second time at Gold Coast Arts Centre 2015. I think what keeps me coming back to this role is Kim’s character, how she stays true to what she knows and believes and fights for not only her own life but for the chance to change the life of her new generation. I feel I have a responsibility as an artist to voice her story for all the people who have suffered like she did.

Why do you think a story like this is important to see on stage in our current climate?

I believe this story is timeless, it is so important for our current climate to see this story on stage and for all generations to witness the raw truths of the war. What is so beautiful about Miss Saigon is the representation of Love and Honour in war. For the Americans, it is their sacrifice for their country and how it affects both the American soldiers post war with post traumatic stress but also how it shows the suffering of the Vietnamese and what they had to do to survive.

Kim goes through an enormous journey during the course of Miss Saigon. How do you prepare to ride such an emotional rollercoaster onstage each night?

How I prepare myself for the emotional roller coaster of Kim’s journey is only allowing myself to be in the moment, so for those 3hours I am 100% invested in Kim’s overall objective: to survive. I think what gets me through is Kim’s spirit. No matter what she goes through, her faith and her guidance from her ‘family up above’ is what somehow lifts me out of those dark moments. But nothing a bit of makeup can’t hide on the double show days!

What are you looking forward to the most about this production?

What I am most looking forward to on this production is the show season. It’s the longest season I’ve done as Kim, so I’m really excited to be a part of this production and share my love of Miss Saigon.

A quick chat with Marcus Rivera

Marcus Rivera

You’ve worked with Viv before, does this help in developing The Engineer and Kim’s very complex relationship on stage?

I had the pleasure of working with Viv on the Aussie tour of The King and I. We used to sing Tuptim’s aria all the time, in the wings, in the soprano key! She’s amazing to work with. I enjoy working with her, constantly finding moments in our scenes together. It definitely helps that we have worked together but the dynamic between The Engineer and Kim is so conflicted and multi-faceted it’s almost like starting from scratch again.

You’ve played this role before. How are you approaching it differently 10 years later?

I can’t believe it’s been that long! 10 years ago, I was in awe, playing this role and the wonderful Engineers that have performed it such as Jonathan Pryce. It’s a vocally, emotionally and physically demanding role and you’re exhausted after every performance. This time around it’s a more grounded and well-paced portrayal. I’m amazed how it’s still in my body and my voice. The human body is so incredible!

What is your favourite part of the musical that you get to perform? What is your favourite part that you are not in?

‘The American Dream’ is definitely my favourite – it is an amazing experience for the audience to watch when done right because it is such a BIG number to do. On a part that I’m not in, ‘Bui Doi’ is one of the pivotal scenes I wish I could take part in. Miss Saigon has a heavy cast of beautiful female voices and ‘Bui Doi’ is one where the male ensemble get to showcase their vocal chops.

Why do you think a story like this is important to see on stage in our current climate?

The backdrop of this musical, the Vietnam War, feels like it happened so long ago and for sure, the Millenial generation would only know of it from history books. But what war does to people, its damaging effect on entire nations (e.g. Syria) is just as relevant today. Secondly, racial prejudice still exists but when you watch this musical, you realise that we are all the same underneath the surface – we all understand the universal themes of love and a mother’s sacrifice.

Directed by Neil Gooding and musically directed by Peter Hayward, Miss Saigon is playing until August 12.

More information and tickets at

Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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