EF - Did you feel that you had full creative freedom in developing the role?

MB - I'm glad you asked this question. We do a lot of talking in conservatories and music schools of how Mackintosh shows are machines and just put people into the roles and expect actors to do the same as their predecessors. I think Cameron [Mackintosh, producer of shows such as Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, and Phantom] is a very hands on producer and he's excellent in putting people in his shows that will do a good job. I had a wonderful experience putting together the second national tour of Miss Saigon. I worked with Fred Hanson who was Associate Producer and Director. He worked with Nicholas Hytner [original director] when they put together the Broadway company and first national tour. We had a wonderful time just finding out what it was about the show that we wanted to tell. There was never a time Fred told me I couldn't do this or that because it was not done in the Broadway company. We had four weeks in New York to rehearse and two weeks in Seattle. We did a lot of experimentation to find everything we wanted to tell. I want everyone to know that I had a great time coming up with the stuff.

EF - You have played opposite different actresses portraying Kim. Does your performance change with different actresses?

MB - Yes, it does. I don't think it changes drastically. Each actress has their own distinct energy, vocal energy, and physical presence. You have to take that in.

EF - OK, let's look at the context of the show. Did Chris really ever truly love Kim?

MB - Of course he did. It's not impossible to love more than one person.

EF - Many people may think that it was just convenient at the time. It might have been an affection rather than true love. Chris needed somebody at the time and Kim was there.

MB - They talk about Chris throughout the entire show. In the song "Please," John [Chris's buddy in the war] talks about how Chris didn't talk to anyone for a year. There is a period in the show where I'm offstage for 40 minutes. They are doing a lot of talking about me. I play it as Chris is truly in love with Kim. There are unfortunate circumstances. That is the thing about this show that makes it great, as well as in Les Mis, is that there are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. The unfortunate circumstance is that Kim gets left behind. Chris has every intention of bringing her to the US. He tries to write as told in the "Bui Doi" scene. It is obvious to me that he was in love with her but he gave up, thinking she either died or disappeared through the communist takeover. I think Chris is a very responsible man with an overwhelming sense of consciousness.

EF - I see your point. Do you believe Chris made the right choice in marrying Ellen?

MB - He tried to move on with his life. He found that Ellen is a great support for him. Anastasia (Ellen) and I talked about where Ellen and Chris met. We decided she had a brother who also served in tour of Vietnam. So, as Ellen, she understood the mental abuse that the war had on Chris. She is a strong woman and a strong support beam for him. Was it the right choice to marry Ellen? Yes, for Chris it was. That is what he needed after two years of not being able to find Kim and assuming she was dead.

EF - The show is very emotionally driven. Does it still touch you emotionally after you do it so many times?

MB - Yes. It is not only physically draining, it is really emotionally taxing. I feel it everyday especially at the end of a show. When you put so much of yourself, your time, and your energy into a part, you find yourself taking on their thought processes or their mentality. It can be overwhelming when you do it eight times a week. I know full well I'm not Chris but it is difficult to simply turn it on and off.

EF - How do you turn it on, so to speak? Is it hard to get into character, every day?

MB - I go through spells where I'm really on. I'm really feeling it. I'm having a great show. Then, there are times I'm not feeling as into it. I don't think the audience realizes it. I'm just having a down time.

EF - Is there something to facilitate getting into the role?

MB - If I can jump into Dreamland (the name of bar in the opening scene), the rest of the show is okay. It is getting to the theater and getting started that is the most difficult. Putting on the costume helps. The gun belt is a big thing. It is a real gun. I feel like I'm wearing what those guys wore. I need to find the mentality of a 21 year old. When I got that and walk into Dreamland, I'm all set.

EF - Miss Saigon has entered its seventh year on Broadway. What do you attribute to the longevity of the show?

MB - This is a hard question. Soon, we are going to revamp the advertising for the show, at least in the US. Deedee (Deedee Lynn Magno, taking over the role of Kim on Broadway)and I will be going into a studio for some pictures. They would like the show to look more like a love story, not a war story. It is the love story that brings people back. What is appealing to an audience is conflict and strength in character. Kim experiences conflict and she is strong. She makes strong decisions. Whether they are right or wrong, they are strong. Like I said before, it is ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. The show is high energy and high emotion the entire time. That is what people want to see. It is important we make the love story work and the rest of the show will be OK.

EF - Hey, you are now on Broadway. You have gotten good reviews, people enjoy seeing you, people wait for your autograph... Has it all really hit you?

MB - When I first got here and was taking my first curtain call, Anastasia Barzee was standing next to me and whispered, "Matt, you are on Broadway!" That is something to really take in. It is wonderful! Anastasia and I still do that to each other once in a while to remind ourselves of how lucky we are. It also reminds us of how much we love what we do. I'm very excited about what I do and everyone should strive for that whether they are in theater or not.

EF - Many say that people in the theater are required to spend all their time at their jobs. Do you find yourself with ample time to have personal freedom, fun time?

MB - I keep busy with other projects. I do readings of new musicals and I do demos of new works by composers who are trying to get their pieces out there. I find time to go to the park and ride my mountain bike or go rollerblading. I also play pool and go to the gym often. I am very conscious of how much I have to rest though. I don't go to smoky places or places that have loud music. I have to have a totally healthy diet. I concentrate on things that are good for the voice and good for the body.

EF - Let me read to you something a New York critic said about your performance, "Over at Miss Saigon, there's now a human to compete with the helicopter. As Chris, a role that can devolve into post-adolescent whining and crotch-grabbing, Matt Bogart suffers without seeming insufferable. For the first time in the show's six year run, the lead is actually more interesting than the doomed Kim or the reptilian Engineer." What is your reaction to this?

MB - Well, I'm very happy with it being my first New York review. I'm very flattered. It's a wonderful thing to hear. I hope that people see me in the show that way. The show has been running for quite some time and hope that people still come to see it. I hope that people don't assume that because it has been running for a long time that it is tired. It's not. There is a change in actors every one to two years. Joan, (Joan Almedilla, currently plays Kim) who is great, is leaving and Deedee (Kim in the second national tour) is coming in. We will have a different energy. Everyone in the show is real proud of how the show is.

EF - How much longer will you be in Miss Saigon?

MB - Tentatively, until January 1998. Possibly longer.

EF - What are your future plans?

MB - Eventually, I would like to originate a role in a musical. I would also enjoy doing film or TV. I am hoping in the next couple of years to put out an album of my own.

EF - There have been many messages sent to me from your fans. People want to give you their best and wish you the best of luck and continued success. One admirer said he saw you in the Miss Saigon tour and that he really enjoyed your performance. He went on to say that "Matt has a wonderful voice and fantastic stage presence". Any messages to your fans out there?

MB - Thank you!! Thanks for the support. Come back to see the show. Support the theater. If you are interested in being in theater, don't be afraid. Make sure you love what you do, whether it is theater or not.

EF - Any advice for people pursuing theater as a career?

MB - The cast often talks to groups after shows, usually high school kids who are somewhat interested in going into the arts. The best advice we can give them is to really love what they do and be dedicated to it because there are a lot of sacrifices that have to be made. Loving it will get you through because it is really a hard business. You can't take things personally because there is a lot of rejection. Like I said before, when you audition for something it is when preparation meets opportunity. At auditions, I think of the auditioner being on my side. They want me to do well. There are a lot of aspiring actors out there. It happens at different times for different people. I'm one of the lucky ones.

EF - Also, one of the talented ones. Thanks Matt for taking the time to do this interview.

MB - You're welcome and thanks!

- Ed Feldman


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