The Vietnam War is in its final days but its impacts are long lasting and far from over. 17 year old Kim is forced to work in a sleazy Saigon bar after her family is killed and village destroyed. The notorious Engineer runs the joint and it is there that Kim meets and falls in love with an American GI named Chris. The couple are torn apart by the fall of Saigon and Kim spends the next three years trying to make her way back to Chris, who she now has a child by.
If there is one theatrical production you see this autumn season, make it Cameron Mackintosh’s presentation of Boublil and Schönberg’s iconic musical Miss Saigon. Every element of the musical is an accomplishment from the stunning set designs to the breath-taking choreography and the heart-wrenching performances. Miss Saigon is now entering its third UK tour having debuted almost 30 years ago on the West End in 1989, and whether you’ve never seen it before or wish to see it again (for those who have seen it previously, there is a new song for the character of Ellen which fills a gap that was missing before), this version of the musical showing this October to November is simply unmissable.
Firstly, one cannot praise the performances enough. While Ashley Gilmour is well-cast as the torn GI Chris, the standout actors are really Red Concepcion and Sooha Kim as The Engineer and Kim, respectively. The Engineer is a wily character whose sense of morality you can never wholly rely on. His presence is hugely important as it brings lightness and humour to a show often seeped in tragedy – and Red Concepcion pulls it off effortlessly (most especially in the number ‘The American Dream’). As for newcomer Sooha Kim – who happens to be the first Korean actress to perform as Kim in both English and Japanese – she is exquisite. So much of the impact of the show resides in the unfortunate circumstances that befall this character, and the manner through which she evokes these emotions through her singing will truly have you in tears.
From the ‘Miss Saigon’ number, there is a tremendous sense of energy in the show, in large thanks to the terrific ensemble. No matter where you look on the stage, there is a story being told, and the chorus are definitely a triple threat in their acting, singing and dancing. ‘Movie in My Mind’ gives the women ensemble a chance to really shine while ‘The Morning of the Dragon’ is visually stunning. The number opens on silent, marching feet before building into an amazing display of ribbons, flags, gymnastics and a dragon. The scene breaks up the romanticism, which is almost getting a little sappy, of what proceeded. The musical overall really magnificently balances its alterations between romance and the horrors of war, between melodrama and some surprisingly crude humour, so that there’s something for all to enjoy.
The detailed set design truly impresses with its major investment in costumes, lighting design and props but incredibly, the heart and story of the piece never get lost in all the busyness and spectacle on stage. An amazing production that stays with you long after seeing it.