You’d have to have been hiding under a rock to have not heard that Miss Saigon is now touring at the Wales Millennium Centre (WMC), Cardiff. Having first been on the West End stage in 1989, and continuing to run for 10 years, it is back! Read on for our review of the legendary musical Miss Saigon.
Mackintosh’s acclaimed new production of the iconic musical Miss Saigon, written by Boublil and Schonberg, is showing at the WMC, Cardiff. It will be in Cardiff for a full 5 weeks until the 6th January 2018. Whilst seats are selling fast, there is still some availability, so grab your tickets while you can. Take it from us – this show is not to be missed.
There is no disputing that Miss Saigon is a seriously impressive production. The WMC was built to host such grand-scale performances and it was great to see it put to such good use.
The critics have been positively gushing over the musical, showering it with positive reviews and much acclaim. This is not surprising as it is jam packed with spectacular sets and special effects, wow choreography, and an incredibly moving musical score.
Miss Saigon is a musical that you walk away from with the utmost of appreciation. But, due to the premise of the story, it is also one that leaves you with a heavy heart. It is the type of musical that will stay with you long after the curtain has come down, as you ponder on how things could have, and should have turned out differently – if only, if only.
The musical is based on Puccini’s opera the Madame Butterfly in which a Geisha girl falls in love with an American Lieutenant in Japan. Miss Saigon is instead set in 1970s Saigon during the Vietnam War and tells of the doomed love story between a young Vietnamese bargirl and an American GI stationed in Vietnam.
The story begins with the Engineer (a French- Vietnamese hustler) finding the orphaned 17 year old peasant girl, called Kim (Sooha Kim). The Engineer hauls her into his Dreamland Bar to join his supply of Vietnamese prostitutes. The seedy brothel scene ensues with randy American soldiers and gregarious go-go girls who are all dreaming of a better life conveyed through the song Movie in My Mind.
Kim’s virginal and demur qualities attract the attention of Chris Scott (Ashley Gilmour), a sergeant disillusioned with the clubbing scene. Their subsequent union represents hope and a feeling that love may prevail in even the worst of places.
Chris and Kim are clearly deeply and passionately in love. Together they sing some stunning love duets including Sun and Moon and Last Night of the World. These songs and their on set chemistry unquestionably convey their devotion to one another. However, despite their love and dedication, disappointingly love does not conquer all.
The couple get separated at the American Embassy where Chris is ordered to evacuate immediately, and against his wishes is taken away in the last helicopter to leave Saigon. The staging and spectacular special effects of this scene are indeed second to none.
Unbeknown to Chris, Kim goes on to have his son. Whilst Kim remains faithful in the three years since his departure, Chris believing Kim to be dead remarries in America. When he eventually hears the news of his son he is at least noble of doing right by him, even if he can no longer offer the same promise to Kim. This is despite it being evident that he loves her still. All this escalates to Kim making the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that her son is given a better life.
The whole cast are nothing short of amazing! Kim and Gilmour are both fantastic in their roles, they effortlessly portray a young couple in love and their vocal prowess is clear. Despite a strong performance from Chris’ American wife, Ellen (Zoë Doano) she serves only as an annoyance. An obstacle to the pure love between Chris and Kim.
While most of the songs and performances are very poignant and heartfelt, some light comic relief is provided by the unscrupulous Engineer (Red Concepcion). Concepcion gives a stellar performance throughout – especially through his performance of the song American Dream. Yet, it does little to lift your spirits in a musical which is moodily dark and tragic. There are no winners here, in essence they are all victims.
Throughout the show the audience were pretty quiet, the mood was subdued, and the atmosphere heavy. Even the well deserved standing ovation at the end was somewhat repressed. I think, like me, they didn’t know whether to clap or cry. What was loud and clear, however is that this is a first class musical. Its an absolute must see for anyone in Cardiff over the festive season.
Miss Saigon is showing in The Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 6th January. For more information visit: www.wmc.org.uk
Tickets are priced £25.00 – £65. Concessions are available, depending on allocations and availability.
Children guidance: 12 years+
(All pictures provided courtesy of The Wales Millennium Centre)