Miss Saigon - London

Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil's musical returns to the West End.

London Miss Saigon Star Eva Noblezada on her Chipotle Ordering Skills, Meeting Lea Salonga & 'B to the S' Rumors

“Last Night of the World”—not to mention the rest of the now-iconic score of Miss Saigon—has provided the first flush of stardom for Eva Noblezada, the teenager who was plucked from North Carolina to make her professional stage debut in the 25th-anniversary revival of the British musical blockbuster at the Prince Edward Theatre. Having turned 18 this past March, the winning performer took a break from rehearsal for the Miss Saigon anniversary gala on September 22 to talk Kims past and present, hitting the big-time, and having a West End boyfriend.

How does it feel now that you have been performing Kim for the better part of six months?
It’s amazing. The whole cast feels comfortable—like we’ve found our groove so we can go knock it out night after night. I’m loving it so much.

The entire experience must still have a “pinch me” quality about it.
Sometimes, I wake up and it’s like, “I’m in London!” [Squeals.] I had never even left the States before coming here, so everything about this is completely new.

Remind us how you got this role?
I was in New York at the Jimmy Awards, which is this great program where New York’s top producers and directors help train students from around the country for a week and at the end they choose three male and three female finalists who each have to sing a solo. I sang “With You” from Ghost the Musical, which is really close to my heart, not knowing that the lady who had cast that show, Tara Rubin, was in the audience.

Wow, that was lucky!
I know, right? So afterwards, she pulled me aside at the party and said, “You have to give me your contact information, I have the perfect audition for you,” and I then got a call a few months later saying, “Would you be interested in auditioning for Miss Saigon?” After I peed my pants, I said, absolutely!

What were the auditions like?
I had three, all in New York, and the third time Cameron [Mackintosh, producer] asked me to stay on for an additional callback. I sang “Sun and Moon” and “I’d Give My Life For You”, and he pulled me offstage and said, “How would you feel about moving to London?” He told me right there on the spot.

I hope you burst into tears!
[Laughs.] Of course I did! What normal teenage girl wouldn’t? I was overjoyed and my dad, who was with me, started crying—sorry, Dad! It all happened so fast.

Did you reach out to Lea Salonga [the original Kim]?
Lea had sent me Facebook messages and we communicated through my aunt [Annette Calud], who was in the original Broadway company of Miss Saigon, so I certainly felt as if I had Lea’s support. But the incredible thing is that we are only meeting for the first time later today [for 25th-anniversary gala performance].

Do you remember when you first knew about Lea or Miss Saigon?
I didn’t hear about Miss Saigon until sixth grade—my aunt showed me clips of her singing and I then started looking into it. But I never really got deep into the plot until I read the script. The funny thing with Lea is that I remember her first from her singing Princess Jasmine and Mulan—she was so fantastic!

You then had the challenge of dealing with the legacy of someone who won an Olivier and a Tony for this role.
In the beginning, it was very difficult to get into the character because I was getting compared and contrasted with so many other Kims. At the end of the day I realized that my performance brought me here, so that my Kim was what you will see tonight, not a version of someone else’s, and I got comfortable with that.

Your Kim is entirely your own—but I remember reading before previews started that you were only going to do four performances a week instead of six.
I know, and that was total “B” to the “S”!

“B” to the “S”? I love that phrase!
[Laughs.] I just made it up on the spot. But, yeah, I read that on some website and went, “WHAT?” I literally called up and was, like, wait, no one told me anything about this and they said, “Don’t worry about it.” I wanted to do eight a week!

It must be exciting gearing up for Monday’s celebratory gala.
This week has been crazy. All I can say is that 18,000 people, I’m told, tried to get a ticket for that one performance—so many that they crashed the website. Whoever manages to get a ticket is in for a treat.

Your surname surprised me when I first heard it because it sounds Latin.
A Hispanic Kim, that would certainly be different! My dad is Filipino and my mom is Mexican—well, Mexican-American.

Do you speak Spanish?
Muy poco. I can fake the accent pretty well. When I go to Chipotle and order something, they’re like, “That girl’s legit!”

I noticed on Twitter that it looks as if you have a sweetheart.
I do, yes. His name is Leo [Roberts] and I met him when he was in Les Miserables right down the street—though at the moment he’s out on tour in Shrek.

You’ve clearly become part of the West End community.
When I arrived Cameron gave me a lot of free tickets to see the shows, and I got to meet the casts and hang out, just so I had some kind of connection when I started. That was so helpful since I could name on one hand the number of people I knew in London when I first stepped off the plane.

Rave reviews, a boyfriend, and you’re about to meet Lea Salonga for the first time: what more could an 18-year-old ask for?
[Laughs.] I don’t know. It just reminds me that I could never ever take anything for granted. And also that I love London and don’t want to leave!