A Cameron Mackintosh production of Boubil and Schõnberg’s Miss Saigon
Directed by Laurence Connor
This smash hit production of Miss Saigon opened in London in 2014 and has been on a UK tour since July 2017. Landing in Manchester with as much drama and pizzazz as the much lauded helicopter in Act 2, this show delivers on every level. Performed all over the World since 1989, Miss Saigon is a world class production that updates the Puccini opera Madame Butterfly. It tells the story of a doomed love affair between an honourable American G.I and a young peasant girl turned prostitute during the Vietnam War.
This is a lush, Technicolour experience with a lavish set, inspired lighting, sound and projections and a huge cast who sing and dance with real passion and commitment. The energy on stage never wavers and through multiple seamless set changes the story unfolds without a single glitch.
The big musical numbers are real crowd pleasers. The Movie in My Mind highlights the dreams, aspirations and coping strategies of the girls who survive by selling their bodies to the American soldiers. I Still Believe depicts the agony of two women loving the same man as Kim (Sooha Kim) and Ellen (Zoë Doano) sing with heartfelt poignancy and raw passion. The plight of the mixed-race children ostracised after the war is told in Bui Do sung as film footage displays the plight of abandoned, fatherless children. The most hi- octane numbers are undoubtedly The American Dream with the powerhouse performance of The Engineer (Red Concepción) with a white Cadillac driving on stage.
Kim’s Nightmare is the most powerful number. The roar of the helicopters moving over the audience before appearing to land on stage to evacuate the troops is genuinely tense and exciting. This scene at the Embassy gates is powerful and the switch that allows us to experience both sides of the gates is inspired. The Vietnam War may have ended over 40 years ago but this is a timely reminder of the dispossessed and vulnerable as the Syrian refugee crisis unfolds.
The performances are strong with Ashley Gilmour epitomising the all American hero and Na-Young Jeon as a sassy, sexpot Gigi. Sooha Kim brings great emotional range to her performance as Kim. She moves fluidly from reticent, shy country girl to pragmatic prostitute and eager young bride to determined survivor and fiercely protective mother. The undoubted star is The Engineer who gleefully steals every scene. Red Concepción is an exuberant, unapologetic master of sleaze and manipulation.
I’m not a fan of musicals and approached Miss Saigon with a degree of scepticism but it is a genuine feast for the eyes and ears. It is a real spectacle to behold and the hype is well deserved. The standing ovation at the end was clearly not the first and will definitely not be the last for the powerhouse experience that is Miss Saigon.
Images by Johan Persson.