With a cinematic style and commanding musical medleys, Miss Saigon has become the thirteenth longest-running Broadway show.
The last few days of the Vietnam War are given a personal touch, depicting the lives of Kim (Sooha Kim), The Engineer (Red Concepcion) and Chris (Ashley Gilmour) as they navigate through the consequences of the war. The story sees 17-year-old Kim wrestle for independence, stability and love while working at the Dreamland bar and brothel.
Although working as a bartender, Kim is introduced to the young and naive GI Chris whose hero complex sees him sweep her off her feet with promises of a better life. The ravages of war don’t appear to be holding the two lovebirds back, and they waste away days until Chris is forced to make a hasty retreat home without his new love.
Miss Saigon follows a simple narrative but incorporates flashbacks, documentary film and dream sequences to keep up an energised pace with unexpected direction. While the songs aren’t necessarily lyrically weighing, the tracks translate beautifully to the stage. Within its scaled-up production, there is a sense of live magic that is difficult to fault for its suspense and surprise. Money has clearly been thrown into this production, but it is far from a fig leaf to distract from a poor plot or shoddy dialogue. The 38 cast members climb around multi-layered sets as if inside The Crystal Maze with its impressive settings on pullies, lowered and wheeled in to bring an open world feel to The Palace Theatre stage.
Alongside a live orchestra, the shows talk/sing approach may appear too simplistic and monotone, but its music has been turned up to eleven in an attempt to cancel out an excessive sense of melancholy. You can definitely feel Kim’s pain, as she screams it directly at you. The army of performers also deliver tough choreography, that balance an abundance of props, often wielded by its lead performers. With a brilliantly cast production, the members offered intense performances or moving solos. In particular, Red Concepcion who plays The Engineer, is able to distract audiences from the shows uncomfortable narrative by lending a powerful voice to the track The American Dream.
When it comes to production value, Miss Saigon is up there with the best of them. Its drama doesn’t falter and its committed cast and clever direction allows for a show of mammoth proportions.
You can also watch Miss Saigon Live on Amazon