Academy Senior Prepares for Challenging Role in Miss Saigon

“I’m hoping for fireworks and confetti to burst in peoples’ hearts,” jokes Interlochen Arts Academy senior Marina Kondo when asked about the upcoming opening night for “Miss Saigon.”

Kondo has been cast as Kim, one of the lead roles in this heart-wrenching musical.

“I was actually with my mom on a road trip for a college audition when the cast list came out, so it was nice to share the news with her,” Kondo recalls. “My heart was surprisingly filled with a whole mix of emotions! At first I was incredibly happy, grateful, ready, excited and eager to start tackling my first lead role ever. But then felt nervous and intimidated when I found out that this show is all music, [and realized] how much endurance and strength I would have to build vocally to get through [it].” 

But it’s a role that she has been preparing for years. Kondo first came to Interlochen the summer of 2010 as a camper. She was cast in the high school production of “Aida,” and has never looked back.

“It was the most amazing production I have ever done, because for the first time I understood what it meant to be a part of an ensemble and focus all of your energy with everyone to one single thing,” she recalls. “The outcome was magical and the friendships that I made during those six weeks are still unbroken today. I absolutely fell in love with the atmosphere, faculty, and campers that I decided to audition for the academy and continue my studies.”

Throughout the years Kondo has participated in Interlochen productions of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," "Beauty and the Beast," "Julius Caesar," the Interlochen Arts Academy 50th Anniversary National Tour, "West Side Story," "Collage 2013" and "[title of show]".

Outside of Interlochen she has been featured on Ben E. King's new single album "Dear Japan: Uewomuite Arukou"; sung at the Pendleton Round-Up in Oregon as a musical ambassador from Japan; performed at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Concert in front of the Genbaku Dome in Japan; participated in a Music Marathon for Charity in Birmingham, Michigan; taken part in the Eastern Seals Celebrating Kids Gala Concert; sung at the Kochi Summer Jazz Festival in Kochi, Japan; performed at the International Kokeshi Matsuri (Japanese Doll Festival); and was featured in a Japanese national TV program "Zenryoku Tunes" on JAPAN TV.   

While she was familiar with “Miss Saigon” before being cast, from “listening to the soundtrack hundreds of times” as she put it, Kondo still found this role to be a huge learning experience.

“I was shocked when I actually received my libretto and read though the songs, because it turns out that there was so much that I was misinterpreting or just didn't know. It was so satisfying, though, to have those 'aha' moments when I was able to understand the characters really well and figured out the reasons why they made their particular choices.”

Kondo credits many of those ‘aha’ moments to an extremely talented cast and crew.

“What makes this performance so special are the people who are involved with making this show happen - cast, crew, teachers – but most of all, I think it is the youth of the cast that makes Interlochen's production so neat,” she explains. “Miss Saigon's story was taken directly from history about the end of the Vietnam War so we, as actors, have to take responsibility in making sure that our performance truthfully portrays that sense of fear, panic and chaos that lived in the people during that time. Because we are high school students and our generation has never experienced these kinds of events, it requires a certain maturity, and we must rely on what we are going through today.”

She points out that that’s why the Interlochen Arts Academy students are the right ones to stage this show.

 “Interlochen students are fully capable of taking on this incredible show because we come from all parts of the world, bringing our own experiences and knowledge of history into one, giving Miss Saigon a very worldly feel.”

 The Interlochen Arts Academy Musical Theatre Company will present the musical “Miss Saigon” on May 10 and 11 in Corson Auditorium. Shows will be held Friday, May 10 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 11 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the performance are $22 for adults, $18 for seniors and $9 for students. Tickets are available online at To purchase tickets over the phone, call the Interlochen Box office at 800-681-5920 or 231-276-7800.