Filipino star on stage in Miss Saigon

Marcus Rivera playing the demanding role of The Engineer in the Packemin Production of Miss Saigon in 2017. Photo: Supplied
Marcus Rivera playing the demanding role of The Engineer in the Packemin Production of Miss Saigon in 2017. Photo: Supplied
A leading Filipino performer has landed the starring role in the upcoming production of Miss Saigon.

Versatile singer and actor Marcus Rivera will come from Australia to play the demanding role of The Engineer in the Showbiz Christchurch season which starts next month.

Born in Manila, Rivera migrated to Sydney when he was seven, and has led a successful career working in musical theatre, cabaret, film and television.

Based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, Miss Saigon tells the story of a doomed love between a United States GI and Vietnamese girl during the Vietnam War.

Although the show is set in Vietnam, it has a strong following within the Filipino community and has launched the career of many established Asian performers.

“A lot of Filipinos do love this piece and they follow it anywhere in the world . . . I am hoping the Filipino community will come out in droves in Christchurch,” Rivera said.

Filipino musical theatre star Lea Salonga originally played the leading role of Kim in the West End production of Miss Saigon and became the first Asian woman to win a Tony Award. She was also a grand-finalist in the Filipino television show Search for a Star.

Although Rivera has toured Australia twice while playing The Engineer – and was an understudy in British theatrical producer Sir Cameron Anthony Mackintosh’s version – he is still “exhausted” when the curtain comes down after each performance.

“I love the dark element about (The Engineer) . . . he is not only vocally demanding, he is spiritually demanding, he is physically demanding.”

Highlights from Rivera’s career include producing and co-hosting the Filipino/Australian comedy and variety television programme, The Marcus and Michelle Show, with Michelle Baltazar, and winning the McDonald’s Sydney Eisteddfod’s 2012 Counter Tenor Award.

Rivera believes growing up around music in the Philippines is a reason behind the success of Filipinos on the international theatre stage.

“Everyone has a karaoke machine in every household. If you ever go to the Philippines you will hear everyone in your neighbourhood just singing in their lounge room.”

Rivera said the reason Miss Saigon has launched many performers’ careers is due to the musical score being “absolutely gorgeous” to sing and the themes of survival, sacrifice and a mother’s love for her children.

“Anytime in the history of the world you go through war . . . it devastates communities, families and, unfortunately, it is a theme that is still rather current in parts of the world.”

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