THEY call him The Engineer because he makes things happen...for the right price. But when it comes to fixing his own life, can he pull off the ultimate deal?

Cameron Mackintosh’s epic production of Miss Saigon - heading to Bradford for a month, the only Yorkshire date on its UK tour - is set in the last days of the Vietnam War, when 17-year-old Kim is forced to work in a Saigon bar run by The Engineer, a notorious hustler. When a bunch of American GIs turn up at the bar Kim meets and falls in love with one of them, Chris. The couple are soon torn apart by the fall of Saigon, and heartbroken Kim sets out on a journey of survival to find her way to Chris and introduce him to the son he doesn’t know he has.

Written by Boublil And Schönberg, the much-loved show is a re-working of Puccini’s tragic opera, Madame Butterfly and at its heart is Kim and her young son, Tam.

But it is The Engineer who drives the action along, and is on stage pretty much the whole time. He’s a charismatic French-Vietnamese bar owner, a ruthless wheeler dealer who exploits people and the war to his advantage. He makes girls work in his Saigon club, Dreamland, he fixes GIs up with drink and women, he’s always thinking two steps ahead and making fast money where he can. But, as actor Christian Rey Marbella says, The Engineer has his own tragic story.

“His father was a tattoo artist and his mother a prostitute. He tells of his childhood in the show; how he helped his mother make money by leading drunk soldiers to her hut. He ends up a pimp because exploitation is all he’s known,” says Christian. “For The Engineer, it’s all about survival. He engineers situations to his advantage.”

Adds Christian: “He’s the show’s narrator, he breaks the fourth wall, like the MC in Cabaret. I love playing him because he’s so colourful, and there’s a love-hate relationship with him. There are moments when you think he cares - he helps Kim and Tam - but that’s because he thinks it will help him get to America. He takes the short cuts, but never seems to get anywhere. “His ultimate goal is to get to America. The song American Dream is my favourite because he’s dancing and singing, telling everyone what he’ll do when he gets to America, getting lost in his dream. In the end, he’s a victim of war, same as the others.”

Christian puts the show’s lasting appeal down to good storytelling. “There’s so much depth,” he says. “It’s a musical, but it doesn’t sugar-coat the war. Millennials haven’t experienced war, we get younger people coming along who are fascinated by the setting.”

This is Christian’s 10th year in Miss Saigon, which he came to via an unusual route. “I was at medical college in Manilla, training to be a doctor, and heard about casting for the show. I acted for a hobby so went along, to get it out of my system, and was offered a part. An element of luck and fate!” he smiles.

Christian’s other theatre work includes The King and I and Jesus Christ Superstar. He credits Miss Saigon with giving Asian actors a break in mainstream musical theatre. “It has been life-changing for us Asian actors,” he says. “Miss Saigon is as much about the Asian experience of this war as anything else. I grew up near a US naval base in the Phillipines, I loved American movies, the culture had a huge influence. Now there are opportunities for actors like me, who grew up in Asia. I love this show, and I love being at the centre of it.”

* Miss Saigon runs at the Alhambra from September 19 to October 20. Call (01274) 432000.