Theatre review: Miss Saigon (5/5)
Still soaring after its 2014 London revival, and experiencing a boost in popularity due to a spectacularly filmed Blu-ray/DVD release, this 28- year old show remains fresh, vibrant and dramatic.
Created by Boublil and Schönberg, a musical duo perhaps more famous for theatre staple Les Miserables, Miss Saigon takes the basic plot of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and transports it to the end of the Vietnam War.
We follow Kim, a seventeen year old who has just lost her parents, Chris, a disillusioned American GI, and The Engineer, the pimp who runs the Dreamland bar and takes Kim under his wing.
What unfolds is a doomed love story that gives way to a tragic tale of loss, sacrifice and a scathing commentary on the USA’s involvement in Vietnam (epitomised in the line: ‘Christ, I’m an American. How could I fail to do good?’) and the ideals of the American Dream.
As a show, Miss Saigon’s strongest selling point has to be its epic staging and powerful music, highlights of which include the fall and evacuation of Saigon by helicopter, a creepy ghost of a guilty conscience, and a dream sequence featuring sequinned dancers and a swanky American car driven through the mouth of the Statue Of Liberty.
Measured use of smoke machines create an authentically dusty atmosphere while the eye-popping colour palette (replete with oranges, reds, and neon pinks and blues) is visually arresting.
From the sweepingly romantic Last Night Of the World to the dynamic Morning of The Dragon, every song is perfectly suited to its visuals, providing an enthralling theatrical experience.
While not quite as polished and commanding as the London revival cast (who just finished up a well-received Broadway run) the UK tour still boasts an impressive array of talent.
Sooha Kim, a relative newcomer, makes for a very sweet and youthful Kim and shares good chemistry with Ashley Gilmour, whose somewhat stoic and obviously lost Chris complements her nicely.
Christian Rey Marbella* is appropriately sleazy and enigmatic as the show-stealing Engineer, while Gerald Santos (Thuy), Zoe Doano (Ellen), and Na-Young Jeon (Gigi) provide solid support. Special mention to Ryan O’Gorman, who has a great voice, and portrays a practical and compassionate John.
Miss Saigon is a show that must be seen live. Colourful, tragic, provocative and ultimately haunting, it is a unique experience both in sound and setting. If you haven’t booked tickets yet, do so now. There is really nothing else like it.
*Christian Rey Marbella is the Alternate Engineer. Red Concepcion is the main.
Miss Saigon is at Edinburgh Festival Theatre until 17th February