It’s the revival we’ve been waiting to see, for those of us who were too young to catch the original production at Drury Lane which opened in 1989, or those who simply want to re-live that first memory.
The heat is finally back on in Saigon as Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Miss Saigon takes to the stage at the Prince Edward Theatre.
Mackintosh has teamed up yet again with Laurence Connor who took on the momentous task in 2012 of staging the 25th Anniversary production of Les Miserables. Together, with their award-winning team, they’ve once again taken the risk of updating a well-loved musical, and I’m extremely glad they did.
Miss Saigon follows the story of a whirlwind romance between American GI Chris (Alistair Brammer) and a young 17 year old girl, Kim (Eva Noblezada), set against the background of the final weeks of the Vietnam War.
Without giving away any details to those who do not know the plot, the musical focuses heavily on the children born throughout the war (known as the Bui Doi) and how it affected the lives of the mothers and broken families who were left behind when the war came to a sudden end. A tale which still hits a nerve and has relevance today.
Making her professional debut is 17 year old newcomer Eva Noblezada, who takes on the mammoth task that is the role of Kim (following in the footsteps of Lea Salonga) with the grace of a seasoned professional. From the moment we meet Kim as a young girl, sold as a prostitute, leading to a whirlwind romance leaving her a single yet strong loving mother seeking a better life for her young son, Noblezada takes on and has perfected each emotion. Her rendition of ‘Paper Dragons’ is beautiful and simple, yet heart-wrenching. It’s wonderful to see producers such as Cameron Mackintosh taking the chance on new talent. Eva is definitely one to watch out for.
As young leading men go, Alistair Brammer is definitely filling the boots. From the moment he sets eyes on his leading lady, there is no doubt of the passion and love that Chris holds for Kim. Brammer has grown vocally since his Marius days in Les Miserables and he puts his vocals to good use with a compelling take on on ‘Why God Why’, plus his compassion which is spot on during ‘Sun and Moon’.
In the past I’ve heard that the star of this show is the now famed appearance of a helicopter, and though it proves to be an extremely effective moment, I must say that Jon Jon Briones is a true star in the role of The Engineer. His charm, characterisation and comedy timing keep him on top form through out. From the darkness of ‘The Deal’ to his wondrous performance of ‘The American Dream’, Briones nearly steals the show, but the rest of the company hold their ground around him.
Also worthy of a mention are Hugh Maynard (John) who delivers just what the audience want and more with his beautiful rendition of ‘Bui Doi’, and Kwang-Ho Hong as Thuy, who sets a haunting tone whenever he graces the stage.
It would be impossible to review this production without mentioning the wonderful design in both physical production and sound. Totie Driver and Matt Kinley join together to bring us a simplistic yet striking design which brings the grittiness of the war out into the auditorium. Bruno Poet supplies us with a visual treat with some of the best lighting I’ve seen within a theatre, and Mick Potter supports the company throughout with a brilliant sound set up (the orchestra sounds wonderful and perfectly balanced). Of course no show would be complete without an array of costumes, and Andreane Neofitou’s designs compliments the tone beautifully.
When this production went on sale last year it exceeded all expectations with significant advance takings, and it’s well deserved. I can’t imagine that one person will be disappointed with the production that’s been put together here. Miss Saigon has it all, book now to avoid disappointment.
Review by John-Webb Carter
Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed new production has made its highly anticipated return to the West End, and is breaking box office records.
Since Miss Saigon’s sensational record-breaking run at London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane 25 years ago it has played in 300 cities in 15 different languages, winning awards around the world.
This epic musical love story tells the tragic tale of young bar girl Kim, orphaned by war, who falls in love with an American GI called Chris – but their lives are torn apart by the fall of Saigon.
Prince Edward Theatre
Running Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Age Restrictions: Suitable for ages 12+
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7.30pm
Matinees: Thursday and Saturday 2.30pm