Follow TV Tropes


Theatre / Miss Saigon

Go To

Madame Butterfly, The Musical. Penned by the legendary composers of Les Misérables (Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil), Miss Saigon is a reworking of Giacomo Puccini's 1904 opera for more contemporary audiences, by moving it to some new place, specifically The Vietnam War (setting) and Broadway (venue).

The date is April 1975. A group of American Marines are out for one last night on the town since they will be pulling out of Saigon soon. They visit a sleazy nightclub called "Dreamland" run by an Honest John known as The Engineer, and populated by a number of hookers, including Kim, a 17-year-old girl who would probably be The Ingenue if it weren't for her profession. She catches the eye of Chris, one of the marines; his friend John makes the arrangements, and the Official Couple get together. However, after finding out that Kim is a Heartwarming Orphan, Chris offers to take her back to America with him. Of course, this is easier said than done, since the NVA are going to be moving in on Saigon in a matter of days. Even better, Kim's and Chris's Fourth-Date Accidental Marriage is interrupted by Thuy, joint victim of a Childhood Marriage Promise their parents made. Of course, Kim's parents are dead, she loves Chris, and Thuy has gone over to the Dirty Communists, so Kim's not going for it. Thuy promises revenge and storms out again.

Time Skip to 1978, Ho Chi Minh City (what Saigon was renamed after the Dirty Communists took it over). Kim is still there, living in poverty. Even though three years have passed, she is still devoted to Chris, and she has been waiting for him to rescue her. Chris is asleep with his new American wife, Ellen, as it appears Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder. (Maybe. He still has Catapult Nightmares about the last time he saw her: in a crowd of would-be refugees being gunned down by the Commies.) Kim is still being stalked by Thuy, though, and reveals her motivation for Holding Out for a Hero: she and Chris have a son, Tam. Thuy goes a little Ax-Crazy over this and Kim has to shoot him. She then goes to The Engineer, who points out that Tam having an American father ups their chances of being allowed to emigrate to America. As the curtain falls, they book passage to Bangkok as the first leg of this journey.

Act Two opens in America, where John is deeply involved in an American charity organization that helps with the aftermath of the war, specifically, linking American fathers to their "bui doi" (interracial) children. He tells Chris about Kim and Tam, which leaves Chris in the uncomfortable position of telling Ellen exactly why he wakes up yelling Kim's name sometimes; the three travel to Bangkok for some sort of family reunion. Meanwhile, we have a Flashback to the Fall Of Saigon, where it turns out that Chris did his darnedest to get Kim out with him; in fact, John had to punch him to keep him from not boarding the chopper. Kim goes to Chris's hotel room but finds only Ellen, who is not unsympathetic to her plight but doesn't want to be second fiddle to one of her husband's byblows. Ellen issues Chris an ultimatum - her or me - and Chris agrees to limit his contact with Kim and Tam to monetary support sent from America. Of course, Kim isn't particularly happy about this, so once the Americans are at her front door, she takes the only action left her. The curtain falls.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Abandoned War Child: Kim and Chris fall in love when Chris is a Marine stationed in Saigon during the Vietnam War. Chris intends to take Kim back home with him, but he is forced to leave her behind when the US forces are evacuated, leaving Kim to raise their son as a single mother.
  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Played With.
    • Reversed: it's Chris who moved on and Kim who stayed faithful.
    • Justified: he thought she was dead, a reasonable conclusion under the circumstances.
    • Subverted: guilt left him in bad shape—The Mourning After lasted for more than a year, he suffers from nightmares, and he has problems confiding in Ellen about the trauma he went through.
  • Accidental Marriage:
    Chris: It's pretty, but what does it mean?
    Kim: It's what all the girls sing at weddings.
    Chris: (Double Take)
    Kim: They didn't know what else to sing.
    Chris: ...It's the prettiest thing I ever heard.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Ellen and The Engineer's roles are far more extensive than their counterparts in Madame Butterfly. Inverted with Butterfly's maid Suzuki, whose closet possible alternate (Gigi and the other bar girls) disappear 1/3 through the musical.
  • Adaptational Badass: In contrast to Cio-Cio San from the opera, Kim has the Silk Hiding Steel and goes full Mama Bear on anyone who threatens her son. There is some merit to this from the original short story, where she left with the baby after deciding not to kill herself.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • The writers seem to have reasoned that Vietnam was such a tragedy on its own that they can offload all of the fault onto it. They're right — nobody in the cast (save Thuy) is a bad person, and they're all doing the best they can, and it just doesn't matter because this horrible war and its horrible end just came in like a force of nature and rolled over them all. This gives the tragedy a truly nasty sting that was lacking from the source material.
    • Pinkerton, Chris's counterpart in Madame Butterfly, was a massive Jerkass who always intended to divorce Butterfly and marry a "proper American wife" when he went back home to the States. Chris in this musical is presented as more of a Nice Guy, as his actions of leaving Kim behind was justified.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Ellen isn't necessarily a bad person, but her not wanting to take Tam is a complete 180 from Kate, her counterpart in Butterfly who not only asked for Butterfly's son but promised to raise and love him as if he were her own.
    • Even Chris gets a little of this. For all his Jerkass ways in Butterfly, Pinkerton genuinely wants to make amends by taking his son to America. Chris, on the other hand, is willing to leave Tam in Thailand. However, one should note that he chooses to leave Kim and Tam in Thailand only when Ellen tells him to choose between her and Kim.
    • Thuy also. He has two counterparts in the original: Butterfly's uncle who disowns her and condemns her for her actions but disappears after the first act, and her wealthy suitor Yamadori, who calmly goes away after she rejects his marriage proposal. Thuy tries to kill Tam!
  • Alas, Poor Villain:
    • In the revival, the actor playing Thuy manages to infuse him with enough humanity that one can think this—he seems to genuinely love Kim and is heartbroken when she rebuffs him, and his attempt to kill Tam appears to be out of obligation rather than genuine hatred. He wasn't born a monster, he was made into one.
    • In fact, he seems to honestly wish for Kim to shoot him once she takes out the gun. As if he cannot stand to live with the pain of knowing she still loves Chris and has borne his son, the shame Tam would bring to their union and/or the knowledge that she will hate him forever if he kills Tam (nor the dishonor and shame of failing to kill the boy). He begs her to shoot him and presses the gun to his own temple, and when he goes after Tam, it almost seems like he's intentionally provoking her into shooting.
  • America Saves the Day: Subverted. Even mocked In-Universe by Chris:
    Chris: Christ, I'm American, how could I fail to do good?
  • Anti-Villain: The Engineer. Sure, the antagonist role is filled more by Thuy, but he dies during the first act. Nonetheless, the Engineer is a scoundrel, but you can't help but like him. He's clearly an entrepreneur — someone who would be a lot more comfortable in America than Vietnam. Furthermore, he's just as desperate to escape the poverty and violence of Vietnam as the girls he pimps out—it's implied that he's had a hard life due to his biracial heritage. His methods may be greedy and self-serving, but given his motives, it's hard to hate him completely. And he even manages to have a few Pet the Dog moments—in some versions of the ending, he's holding Tam as the fatal gunshot rings out and instantly dives to protect him, then just as quickly shields him from seeing his mother's body
  • Ascended Extra:
    • In the initial London production, Ruthie Henshall was one of the nameless bar girls. Several years later, she was cast in the role of Ellen. In fact, many of the actresses playing the bar girls eventually took on the role of Kim or Ellen, while those playing the soldiers understudied and/or eventually became John or Chris.
    • Jon Jon Briones, who played The Engineer in the West End Revival and plays him in the 2017 Broadway Revival, was initially a chorus member in the original West End and Broadway productions.
  • Asian Babymama
  • Big "NO!": Depending on how much scenery Chris wants to chew.
    • This actually happens twice. Once by Kim after she fatally shoots Thuy, and the other by Chris after Kim fatally shoots herself.
    • Three times in some versions, if you count Chris flying away in the chopper shouting, "KIM!"
  • Blatant Lies:
    • "The Ambassador won't leave until everyone's out!"
    • Also at the end, when Kim tells the Engineer that Chris was overjoyed to see her and is coming to take them all to America.
  • Boomerang Bigot: The Engineer refers to Tam as a "half-breed brat" even though he himself is half French.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: When John finds Kim, he can't bring himself to tell her that Chris has moved on and married. Ostensibly because he feels it's Chris' place to do so, but mostly because Kim is overjoyed at the prospect of reuniting with Chris and he can't bring himself to break her heart.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Chris bolts upright in bed after yet another one of his nightmares about Kim. Depending on the actress, Kim herself often does this following her flashback to when she and Chris were separated during the fall of Saigon.
  • Character Development: John seems like an apathetic callous asshole (verging on Sociopathic Soldier) in act one, but once he gets back to the USA, he deeply regrets his actions - and by extension the entire USA's actions - in the war, becomes involved in charity organizations as a result, and effectively becomes The Atoner.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Done literally, twice, with Chris' gun - this actually follows the original "see a gun in the first act, fire it in the third" formula very well.
  • Childhood Marriage Promise: The fact that this suddenly got overturned by the Asian Hooker Stereotype is a big part of what drove Thuy off the deep end.
  • Citizenship Marriage: In order to get Kim emigration papers, Chris signs a document assuring that he will marry her when they get to the USA. This is based on the marriages of this kind that occurred in Real Life after the Fall Of Saigon.
  • Counterpoint Duet: "I Still Believe", sung by Kim and Ellen. The main "counterpoint" is the setting—Kim is alone in a hovel in Saigon while Ellen is in a comfortable bedroom in America, sitting next to the sleeping Chris. Their lyrics are actually quite similar—each woman sings of her love for Chris, Kim of how much she misses him and hopes to be reunited with him, Ellen of wishing that he would confide in her and stop keeping her at arm's length.
  • Cradling Their Kill: Kim cradles Thuy's body after she shoots him dead.
  • Crosscast Role: Tam can be played by either a young boy or a young girl. He's a toddler and has no lines, so it scarcely matters. It helps that his name (like much of Vietnamese names, and indeed every Vietnamese name in this show) is unisex.
  • Darker and Edgier: The revival, to an already gritty show. The language and behavior of everybody, particularly during the bar scene, is far coarser and harsher than in the original show.
  • Death by Adaptation: Thuy dies in the show, whereas his two counterparts in the opera survive.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Thuy dies in Kim's arms, and Kim dies in Chris's arms.
  • Dies Wide Open: Thuy, at least according to "Kim's Nightmare:"
    Thuy: This is the face you saw that day
    Staring at you with open eyes.
  • Downer Ending: It's based on an Opera, what were you expecting?
  • Dramatic Irony: Kim's delight that Chris is in Bangkok and her longstanding devotion to him and her belief that he will come back for her is emotionally gutting for the audience, who know what Kim doesn't - that Chris has married someone else in America.
  • Eagleland: The Engineer's song, "The American Dream".
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Engineer.
  • Expy: Virtually every main character is a recreation of his/her counterpart in Madame Butterfly.
    • Kim is Cio-Cio San (Madame Butterfly).
    • Chris is B. F. Pinkerton.
    • The Engineer is Goro.
    • John is Sharpless.
    • Ellen is Kate.
    • Thuy is The Bonze and Prince Yamadori.
    • Tam is Dolore ("Sorrow").
    • Gigi and the various bar girls are Suzuki.
    • Also, the scene in Butterfly where Cio-Cio San's uncle shows up at her wedding to denounce her for her actions is echoed in when Thuy shows up at Chris and Kim's apartment to do precisely the same thing, along with threatening the happy couple.
  • Fading into the Next Song: The final notes of "Last Night Of The World" segue into the opening notes of "The Morning Of The Dragon".
  • Final Speech: Kim.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Pay attention to the music that plays just before Kim fatally shoots herself. It's the same music from Act I when she sings "I have had my fill of pain, I will not go back again, I would rather die."
  • Foregone Conclusion: Given the Time Skip that makes it clear that it's three years later and that Chris is in America while Kim is still in Vietnam, it's painfully clear that their desperate efforts to reach each other during "The Fall Of Saigon" are going to fail.
  • Foreshadowing: Present in the majority of the songs in the show.
    • It's Kim's song "I'd Give My Life For You" that really takes this trope and hits the audience over the head with it, as it turns out this is exactly what she ends up doing.
    • One extremely subtle example from Chris when John tells him that Kim is alive. He sings, "You don't know, John, these nightmares, the things that I've seen / I have seen her face burned, seen her shot with my gun." Guess what Kim uses to kill herself with.
    • On a humorous note, in the revival, during the "What A Waste" scene, the Mormon missionary either ignores or seems frightened by the girls, but he is clearly taking lingering looks at the male prostitute. Is it any surprise when he finally gives in and reveals his homosexuality when the Engineer offers himself up?
  • Gender Flip: Joanna Ampil, a former Kim herself, plays a female Engineer in the 2023 Sheffield production. To reflect this reinterpretation, the character is altered to be more of a Mama Bear-type who protects her girls, rather than an abusive man who slaps them around. She's still quite opportunistic, however.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination:
    • Kim is trying to prevent her son from experiencing this, knowing full well that he will be shunned because he's the half-white illegitimate son of an American GI. Indeed, the fact that her cousin Thuy tried to KILL the boy demonstrates how rampant the feelings of contempt towards such children are.
    • Even The Engineer might count as this. One wonders if he may have had the chance to be more than a pimp had he not been the illegitimate son of a prostitute and her Frenchman customer.
    • Discussed in the song "Bui Doi," John's (In-Universe) pitch to fellow GIs.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Kim.
    Chris: She's no whore; you saw her too.
    She's really more, like... The April moon.
  • Heroic BSoD: Chris is said to have suffered one lasting a full year after losing Kim during the Fall of Saigon.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Although she's devastated to see that Chris has moved on, Kim almost instantly puts her feelings aside in order to beg Ellen to take Tam to America so that he can have a better life, then kills herself to ensure this.
  • He Who Must Not Be Heard: Tam is a silent role.
  • Honest John's Dealership: The Engineer.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Kim in name only. She isn't presented as being particularly sexualized; in fact, her appeal to Chris seems to be more on the grounds of Nature Adores a Virgin.
    Kim: I'm seventeen, and I'm new here today
    The village I come from seems so far away
    All of the girls know much more what to say,
    But I know: I have a heart like the sea
    A million dreams are in me!
    Chris: Good Jesus John who is she???
  • Ho Yay: In the revival, during the "What A Waste" scene, one of the scantily-clad, gyrating prostitutes is a man. Additionally, the Mormon missionary who spends the entire song acting disgusted at the Engineer's attempt to procure him a girl finally gives in when the Engineer offers himself up.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Chris is consumed with guilt at failing to get Kim out of Saigon, and believes she died.
  • Ironic Echo: Kim's final line showed up previously when the two were pledging their love. In the song "Sun and Moon," just as they were falling in love, Chris asks Kim, "How in the light of one night did we come so far?" In the "Finale," just before she dies in his arms, she asks him "How in one night have we come... so far?"
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy:
    • Ellen conveys this in the 2014 London revival with the song "Maybe", indicating that she'll be willing to give Chris up if necessary for him to heal.
    • Arguably Kim as well, who doesn't try and fight Ellen for Chris's love. Granted her main priority became ensuring Tam's future, but still.
  • "I Want" Song: "The Movie In My Mind" and "The American Dream".
  • I Will Wait for You: Kim has pledged this to herself for Chris during the three years she spent without him.
  • Irony: In "Why, God, Why?" Chris lampshades that as he's about to leave Vietnam - "there's nothing here that I'll miss" - he finds Kim and falls in love with her.
  • Kissing Cousins: Thuy is certainly hoping to make this happen, but Kim (the cousin in question) wants no part of it.
  • Large Ham: Come on, guys. It's a musical. (As Bridget Jones puts it, "Strange men standing around with their legs apart bellowing songs straight ahead.")
  • Last Kiss: Chris and Kim kiss one last time leading to the Ironic Echo quoted above.
  • The Lost Lenore: Kim and Chris to each other. For both, for how they were wrenched apart during the Fall of Saigon. For him, for those three years where he's uncertain if she's dead or alive—and when she ultimately kills herself, for her, for those three years that they were apart, only to find that he's moved on and gotten married.
  • Lovable Rogue: Sure, the Engineer is a scoundrel, but he's so charismatic that you can't help but like him.
  • Lovable Traitor: If the Engineer isn't a Lovable Rogue, he's probably this.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Or perhaps two instances of Love Triangles between Chris, Kim, and Thuy, and between Kim, Chris, and Ellen.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Thuy's complete devotion to Kim even after all those years leads to him trying to kill her child in order to keep their honor. Might also be seen as an Alternative Character Interpretation.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: In the opening "The Heat Is On In Saigon", despite the raucous nature of the song, the lyrics make it clear that the soldiers are desperate for one last good time before escaping the hellish atmosphere, while the girls are desperate for one last chance to snag an American GI and get out of Vietnam themselves.
  • Madame Butterfly Syndrome: Well naturally, as it is a Setting Update of the Trope Namer.
  • Mama Bear: Both Kim and Ellen, especially during their one meeting. Even though Ellen doesn't have kids yet.
  • Mistaken for Servant: Ellen assumes Kim is the maid when she shows up in the hotel room.
  • Mood Whiplash: The end of "Last Night of the World", one of Kim and Chris's love songs, segues right from the ending notes into the Villain Song, "Morning of the Dragon."
    • In the original London production, the very sad song "The Sacred Bird" (Kim preparing Tam to meet Chris and bid him farewell) abruptly segues into an instrumental reprise of the raucous, upbeat, "American Dream", which itself abruptly ends with a gunshot.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Thuy threatens this against Chris. Then Kim actually does it to him (granted, he was declaring his intention to kill her son at the time, so her response was far from unjustified.) (Then she does it to herself!)
  • New Child Left Behind: Kim gave birth to Tam during the Time Skip. It's possible that she didn't even know she was pregnant before they were separated in the chaos of the final days of the Vietnam War.
  • Nonindicative Name: Kim does not actually win the "Miss Saigon" pageant. However, Gigi toasts Kim as the "real" Miss Saigon due to Kim and Chris falling in love and believing Kim will leave Saigon.
  • Parental Love Song: "I'd Give My Life For You" from Kim to Tam.
  • Percussive Prevention: John knocks Chris out to prevent him from leaving the embassy to find Kim.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Twice: once after Kim shoots Thuy, and once after she shoots herself.
  • Plagued by Nightmares: Chris, as revealed by Ellen's lyrics in "I Still Believe"—"Last night I watched you sleeping. Once more, the nightmare came. . .", seconds before he awakens from yet another bad dream.
  • Please Select New City Name: Saigon actually was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. The old name is still used interchangeably with the new one.
  • Race Lift:
    • Towards the end of the show's first Broadway run, the role of Ellen, typically played by a white actress (specifically, a blonde or redhead) was cast with Margaret Ann Gates, who is Asian, resulting in a likely example of the Replacement Goldfish trope—it now seemed as though Chris married Ellen only because she reminded him of Kim, rather than to move on with his life. Corneilla Luna played the role of Kim in the Toronto production and the role of Ellen in the UK touring production, making her the only actress to do so, and a near-literal example of the "goldfish" trope.
      • This has happened in the current London revival also with Natalie Chua as one of the understudies for Ellen.
    • The role of John was initially played by a white actor, but soon replaced with African-American ones.
    • No primary character of Vietnamese ethnicity have been played by an actor/actress of Vietnamese descent. At most, there's one ensemble member in the West End production who's British-Vietnamese. The Czech production even had a white actress play Kim with two actresses of Vietnamese descent in the ensemble.
  • Recurring Dreams: Implied by Ellen's lyrics in "I Still Believe", when she says, "Last night. . .once more the nightmare came", just a few minutes before Chris wakens from yet another bad dream.
  • Retargeted Lust: Chris kisses Ellen passionately. . .having awakened from a nightmare about Kim. It's not hard to imagine that he's transferring his feelings for one woman onto the other, especially in the few instances where Ellen has been played by an Asian woman.
  • Say My Name: "KIIIIIIIIIIIIIMMMMMM!" Sometimes during "I Still Believe", during the fall of Saigon, and at the end, which can be combined with a Big "NO!" depending on the actor.
  • Screw the War, We're Partying: The opening scenes, "The Heat Is On In Saigon". Despite the raucous atmosphere, the lyrics demonstrate that the soldiers are desperate for one last fling and that the girls are desperate for one last chance to escape Vietnam.
    "The heat is on in Saigon
    And things are not going well
    But still at midnight, the party goes on
    A good-bye party in hell".
  • Second Love: Ellen to Chris.
    "The story of my life began again. . .with you."
  • Security Cling:
    • Kim and Chris to each other during the song "The Last Night Of The World". "So stay with me and hold me tight. . ."
    • Chris and Ellen throughout "I Still Believe" sometimes with a Sexy Discretion Shot at the end. Understandable, as she's comforting him after a nightmare.
    • Kim to Chris at the end of the play.
  • Sex for Solace: Chris grabs his wife Ellen and kisses her passionately, having just awakened from a nightmare about his lost love Kim. It's not hard to imagine that he's trying to invoke this trope.
  • Sexophone: Lampshade Hanging within the musical itself.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: The lights begin to dim as Kim and Chris undress, then go out completely as they get into bed. There's similar staging for his love scene with Ellen.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: in some versions, Ellen pulls this during the scene where she watches Chris as he sleeps
    • In some productions, Kim can be seen wearing Chris's shirt in the "This Money's Yours/Sun and Moon" number.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran:
    • Chris, as he often has nightmares of his time during the war. Also combined with his falling in love with Kim, of course.
    • The lyrics of "Bui Doi" indicate John is pretty shaken up too, even if he's in better shape than Chris.
  • Shirtless Scene: Chris has a couple. It's normal for him to begin "Why God Why" shirtless and get dressed during it.
  • Shoot the Money: Theater writer Peter Filichia wrote in the book Let's Put on a Musical that the probable reason the story is told out of sequence was so the show's big special effect — the last helicopter taking off during the fall of Saigon — could be saved for the second act.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Single Mom Stripper: Kim becomes this after Tam is born, although she had started work as a pole dancer before anyway.
  • Solar and Lunar: This imagery is present in "Sun and Moon", where Kim and Chris compare themselves to the moon and sun because they love each other despite their different backgrounds.
    "You are sunlight and I, moon
    Joined by the gods of fortune
    Midnight and high noon
    Sharing the sky..."
  • Son of a Whore: The Engineer. Tam as well.
  • Subliminal Advertising: Look very closely at the helicopter logo: you can see the face of a woman in the slipstream. Props go to the graphic designer, who was asked by Cameron Mackintosh to include the face of a woman somehow in the logo.
  • Tempting Fate: Thuy's last words to Kim are, "You don't know how to kill!" He says this about five seconds before she shoots him dead.
  • Time Skip: Halfway through the first act. "Last Night Of The World" ends with Chris and Kim embracing on a balcony. The ending notes segue right into the beginning of the next song, "The Morning Of The Dragon", commemorating the third anniversary of the reunion of Vietnam.
  • Two First Names: Christopher Scott and John Thomas.
  • Unbalanced By Rival's Kid: Ellen and Thuy, separately, regarding Tam.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Ellen. Had she not reacted so badly to the idea of taking Tam, Kim might not have felt it necessary to kill herself in order to ensure that they would.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Along with Madame Butterfly, the producers were inspired by a picture of a Vietnamese woman taking her daughter to the airport to put her on a plane bound for the USA, where she would meet her father, an American GI she had never met before—and would never see her mother again.
  • Villain Song:
    • "The American Dream" is The Engineer's big villain song, though almost every other bit part he sings can count too. The ironic thing is that The Engineer isn't an antagonistic character, he's just a sleazy businessman.
    • "The Morning of The Dragon", which is a Viet Cong platoon's marching song as they burn down a village.
  • Virgin in a White Dress: Kim wears white in her first scene, representing her virginity and complete innocence and cluelessness regarding the world of prostitution.
  • Wartime Romance: Chris and Kim. There's even a wedding ceremony at one point, though it's just a formality and not legally binding.
  • Went Crazy When They Left: Sung to Kim by John about Chris—"He went crazy when he lost you, spoke to no one for a year. . ."
  • Wham Shot: In "I Still Believe", we see Kim alone in a hovel. . .and Chris thousands of miles away in bed with his new wife. Aside from the confusion as to how they ended up like this, given that the last we saw of them was them blissfully happy, with this revelation, we know the show is going to end sadly somehow.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Gigi and the rest of the bar girls from Dreamland disappear from the narrative towards the end of Act One, and we don't learn what happened to them after the fall of Saigon.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: John gives this to Ellen and Chris regarding their decision to leave Tam and Kim in Bangkok with monetary support, a decision that they try to spin as best for all involved but in truth is about maintaining their own comfort, telling them that they "are talking like fools" and seeming downright disgusted with them at one point; "I hope you two are proud of what you just as said."
  • Would Hit a Girl: The Engineer, John, and several of the other GIs all slap several of the girls during the bar scene. Later, Thuy allows his soldiers to beat Kim.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Thuy tries to stab Tam dead for being Chris's bastard son. Tam is two years old.
  • Yellowface: In the original West End (London) debut, the Engineer was played by white actor Jonathan Pryce. This was extremely controversial, but it didn't stop him from winning a Tony Award for his performance. It was also counter-argued that the Engineer is Eurasian (half-Vietnamese and half-French).