The Engineer (also known as Tran Van Dinh) is the French-Vietnamese owner of the nightclub Dreamland in Saigon during the Vietnam War.
The Engineer's real name is never explicitly mentioned, although during his re-education under the Communist government, he assumes the name Tran Van Dinh.
Early life Edit
The Engineer was born around the time of the First Indochina War (circa 1946). His father was a tattoo artist in Hải Phòng in Northern Vietnam, where the first of the French troops landed, and his mother was a local prostitute. The Engineer recalls that when he was young, he helped his mother get clients by leading drunk men into her hut, foreshadowing his future career as a pimp.
After the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ in 1954 and the arrival of the Americans in Vietnam, the Engineer realized his talent for business and started a dream to use this to get him a better life and escape the war. By the time of the Vietnam War, he had established a local nightclub appropriately called "Dreamland", which caters mostly to American GIs stationed in Saigon.
Before Saigon's invasion by the Viet Cong, the Engineer has hired a virginal young girl from the country named Kim as one of Dreamland's main attractions. As he had predicted, Kim's charm immediately gets the attention of one of the American soldiers, Chris Scott. The Engineer senses the soldier's deep infatuation with Kim and tries asking for a US Visa as her payment but to no avail, settling for money instead.
Shortly after the Fall of Saigon, the Engineer along with the supporters of South Vietnam, was held prisoner in a reeducation camp, during which he worked in a rice plantation assuming the name Tran Van Dinh.
Although the Engineer spends three years of reeducation, his ambitions of earning a US Visa remain. Thuy, a Vietnamese supporter of the Viet Cong who was once betrothed to Kim, seeks the Engineer's help in searching for her. The Engineer manages to find Kim, hiding in the slums and hopelessly waiting for Chris' return. He tries to force Kim into marrying Thuy, telling her it would lead them out of poverty if he marries a high-ranking man like him.
Later, the Engineer hears from Kim that she had shot and killed Thuy trying to defend Tam, her son with Chris. With this revelation, the Engineer's desire to become a US citizen is reignited and he devises a plan to use Kim's half-American son to his advantage. With the Engineer posing as Kim's brother and Tam's uncle, the three set sail for Bangkok as boat people.
In Bangkok, the Engineer starts working as a promoter for a local club while Kim works as a dancer. He has become increasingly frustrated at how little he is earning and how refugees like him are being taken advantage of. To his surprise, he bumps into Chris' old friend from the army John Thomas who has come to Bangkok with Chris in search for Kim and her son. The Engineer happily takes John to Kim, but warns her not to trust him until she has reunited with Chris. The Engineer is able to procure the hotel room number Chris is staying in, and instructs Kim to see him immediately. Kim instead finds Ellen, Chris' new wife who tells her they do not want to bring them to the US, instead opting to help them by sending money for Tam.
With all her hopes suddenly now impossible, Kim lies to the Engineer saying Chris is still coming to help them escape. As the Engineer introduces Tam to his father, Kim commits suicide. After her death, the Engineer's fate remains unknown.
Musical numbers Edit
Act I Edit
- Backstage Dreamland (with Gigi, Kim, and Bar Girls)
- The Heat is On in Saigon (with Soldiers, Bar Girls, Kim, John, Chris and Gigi)
- The Transaction (with John, Soldiers, Chris, and Kim)
- The Dance (with Kim and Chris)
- The Deal (with Chris)
- The Morning of the Dragon (with Soldiers, Guards and Thuy)
- Coo-Coo Princess (with Kim, Thuy and Soldiers)
- If You Want to Die in Bed
- Kim & Engineer (with Kim)
Act II Edit
- What a Waste (with Hustlers, Tourists, John and Kim)
- Chris is Here (with Kim, Club Owner and John)
- Paper Dragons (with Kim)
- The American Dream
- The Engineer's casting note read "Male, leading role. Vietnamese/French (Eurasian). Sleazy but likeable small-time hustler, entrepreneur. Strong mover/singer actor."
Notable portrayals Edit
- Jonathan Pryce (Original West End, Original Broadway, Original Cast Recording)
- Kevin Gray (Complete Symphonic Recording)
- Masachika Ichimura (Original Japanese Cast, 1992-2016 Japanese Tour)
- Takashi Sasano and Atsushi Haruta (Original Japanese Cast)
- Leo Tavarro Valdez
- Toshio Kakei (2004-2009, 2014 Japanese Tours)
- Satoshi Hashimoto and Tetsuya Bessho (2004-2009 Japanese Tour)
- Jon Jon Briones (2014 West End Revival, 2017 Broadway Revival)
- Hajime Komada (2014-2016 Japanese Tour)
- Diamond Yukai (2016 Japanese Tour)
- Christian Rey Marbella (2014-2016 West End Revival and 2017-2018 UK Tour)
- Leo Tavarro Valdez (2018 UK Tour)
- Red Concepcion (2017 UK Tour, 2018 US Tour)