AN ASIAN/AMERICAN veteran of Broadway will definitely receive a Tony this year. Not as certain, is the chance for Eva Noblezada, who was nominated as best actress in a musical for her role in the revival of Miss Saigon.
The award, announced this morning (May 2), is presented annually to a member of the theater community “who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations,” according to the Tony Administration Committee, citing Lee’s “commitment to future generations of artists through her work with the National Asian Artists Project and theater education programs around the world.”
“Baayork works tirelessly to break down cultural walls that often build up around what theatre goers consider ‘traditional’ musicals, and her dedication to fostering the next generation of performers and theatre professionals to do the same is exemplary. We are thrilled to honor her this year,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League, and Heather Hitchens, President of the American Theatre Wing.
Lee is best known for creating the role of Connie, as well as serving as director-choreographer Michael Bennett’s assistant choreographer on the production. Subsequently, she staged many national and international companies, throughout the U.S. and the world.
Lee is the Founder of National Asian Artists Project (NAAP), which is a community of artists, educators, administrators, community leaders and professionals who work to showcase the work of Asian/American theater artists through performance, educational programming and community outreach.
The San Diego-born Noblezada, 21, was nominated for her role as Kim, the Vietnamese bar girl who falls in love with an American soldier, in 1975, during the fall of Saigon, as depicted in Miss Saigon. Her talent shone through overcoming the casting controversy and the debate over the white-savior plotline. Miss Saigon was also nominated for a Tony in the "Best Revival of a Musical" category.
The Filipina/American was first cast in the role by famed producer Cameron Mackintosh when she was just 17 for a production in London. She had to skip her high school graduation in Charlotte, South Carolina in order to accept the role, for which she won rave reviews. She won Great Britain's version of the Tony Award for her role in that production. Noblezada followed that up by playing Eponine in Mackintosh’s London version of Les Miserables.
In the category, best actress in a musical, Noblezada is up against some Broadway heavyweights. The Hollywood Reporter’s chief theater critic, David Rooney, wrote in an analysis piece on Monday: “I think newcomer Eva Noblezada deserves attention for 'Miss Saigon,’ though if she’s rubbing shoulders in the lead-actress-in-a-musical group with royalty like Bette Midler, Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, she should just enjoy being along for the ride.” Midler is the heavy favorite for her role in another revival, Hello Dolly.
Watch Eva Noblezada's performance of "Home" from Miss Saigon: