As Footlight Productions prepares to stage the Geelong premiere of the acclaimed Boublil and Schonberg musical Miss Saigon, a new leading lady is emerging on the Geelong musical theatre scene. Mikaila Briggs, a recent graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, is getting ready to step into the mammoth role of Kim ahead of the show’s opening next January. Mikaila recently sat down with us to discuss her preparations for the role and why she loves this classic musical.
The role of Kim in Miss Saigon is often cited as one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, characters in contemporary musical theatre. Kim has been a dream role for Mikaila Briggs for a long time, and she is relishing every minute of this opportunity provided to her by Footlight Productions and director Christopher Parker.
“I really love this character,” said Mikaila. “I’m so enjoying finding Kim as a character. She goes through so much in the space of a two hour show.
“Even though there’s a sort of naivety and vulnerability to her, she’s a character that is incredibly brave and incredibly strong willed. Kim is so determined, the drive within her is so strong and she will do pretty much anything. That’s why I love her – she has such a pure mind, but that doesn’t make her weak. These are qualities you don’t see a lot in the big female lead roles in theatre.”
Quizzed on her favourite moments in the show, Mikaila praises the entire Miss Saigon score, the historical context surrounding the show, and the beautiful message of the piece.
“The entire production is magnificent,” said Mikaila, “but I do really love the number ‘Last Night of the World’. It’s a real moment in time – the two leading characters are so desperate to hang on to their love, yet still being very playful.”
Preparing oneself to play in a huge character in a huge musical is of course no easy feat. Although formal rehearsals only begun a couple of months ago, Mikaila commenced training for the show shortly after she was cast in August.
“When I found out I got the role, I did train a lot and worked with a vocal coach going through all the songs and the material. I wanted to get on top of it as soon as possible so I could have it in my body – rather than being in rehearsal and still be worrying about a particular vocal technique or remembering a certain lyric. Instead I’m now able to focus on what’s happening in the scene.”
Mikaila’s time studying music theatre at WAAPA has been nothing but useful for taking on this kind of task.
“The things we learnt while performing in the various shows at WAAPA have been extremely valuable – working with different directors, incorporating our acting tuition into our own professional work, finding our own way of getting into a character and finding a scene.”
While she can’t wait to hit the theatre in January, Mikaila is adoring the rehearsal process and all the preparations for opening night.
“It’s been amazing,” said Mikaila. “It’s really great working with everyone. “We started off meeting as an ensemble and working together, getting comfortable with one another. Then we’ve been branching off with the other main characters and workshopping individual scenes.”
A newcomer to Geelong theatre, Mikaila is also taking great pleasure in working with new people, both amongst the cast and the creative team.
“I love meeting all the new people – hearing where they’re from and what shows they’ve done. It’s nice that those in Geelong theatre have done so many productions together, yet they still welcome new people into their circle.”
Footlight Productions’ Miss Saigon opens January 23, 2015 at the Geelong Performing Arts Centre for a limited three-week season. Bookings at http://www.gpac.org.au or phone the box office on 5225 1200.
Mikaila Briggs was interviewed by Jacob Petkovic, a Professional Communications graduate of RMIT University and a member of the Footlight Productions Marketing Team
Mikaila Briggs pictured with co-star David Irvine who plays the role of Chris.