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UH-Hilo students take on ‘Miss Saigon’

April 11, 2014 - 12:05am

Scott Wuscher said the “Miss Saigon” spring musical at the University of Hawaii at Hilo Performing Arts Center is a roller coaster of emotions.

“Come and see it, but bring a tissue,” he said during a dress rehearsal at UH-Hilo last week.

The award-winning musical about love and loss in the Vietnam War opened Thursday with a cast of 37 performers who will bring to life the story of an American G.I. who falls in love with a Vietnamese girl just as Saigon is besieged by the North Vietnamese.

Wuscher plays Chris, the American soldier who falls for Kim, a Vietnamese bar girl played by UH-Hilo senior Rachel Edwards.

A self-proclaimed “musical junkie,” Wuscher said the soundtrack to “Miss Saigon” is intense and heavy.

Edwards, who will be performing with UH-Hilo for the first time, said she was both nervous and excited to make her debut.

“I’m terrified, but it’s somewhere that I feel at home,” she said.

Edwards said when she heard the university was putting together the show, she knew she wanted to play the role of Kim, a character she describes as dynamic.

“There’s so much turmoil and sadness and I just knew I could project that on stage,”she said.

For those who haven’t seen it, Edwards said her favorite scene is when she’s singing “I’d Give My Life For You.”

“It’s when I’m singing to my son and letting him know that his life means more than mine,” she said.

Edwards and Wuscher are joined on stage by UH-Hilo faculty member Norman Arancon, who plays the colorful role of The Engineer, or pimp, as well as the working girls of the Dreamland Bar — Gigi, Mimi, Yvette and Yvonne — played by Lilinoe Kauahikaua, Angeline Jara, Bailey Woolridge and Kawehi Kanoho-Kalahiki.

Jackie Pualani Johnson, a performing arts department professor at UH-Hilo, is directing the play by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly.”

Armando Mendoza acts as musical director and Celeste Staton fills the role of faculty choreographer.

Lee Dombroski, UH-Hilo PAC’s manager, said the performance is a chance to showcase the students’ talents.

“This superb artistic team is joined by UH-Hilo Performing Arts senior Katherine Wilson as vocal director and advanced student choreographers Kanoho-Kalahiki and Kawai Soares, and assistant directors Kimo Apaka, a UH-Hilo performing arts graduate, and Denyse Woo-Ockerman,” she said in a press release.

“Miss Saigon” continues today and Saturday and April 17 to 19 at 7:30 p.m. with matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets are reserved seating at $20 for general admission, $15 discount, and $10 for children younger than 18 and UH-Hilo and Hawaii Community College students with a valid student ID.

For more information, call the UH-Hilo Box Office at 932-7490, or order tickets online at

Email Megan Moseley at

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