Miss Saigon is the definition of EPIC. It deserves the acclaim it receives and more. Much more.
Set in the tail end of the Vietnam War, a young girl flees to Saigon after witnessing her village burn to the ashes. In desperation, she begins working at a Brothel under the careful watch of her sleezeball boss, the Engineer. It is here she experiences a furiously short and intense romance with Chris, a young G.I, before they are torn apart. Over the next three years she gives birth to their son and, against all odds, ‘still believes’ they will reunite to begin a better life in America.
But what makes Miss Saigon so EPIC? I’d like to present three simple reasons.
1. Extraordinary Cast
There are 38 adult cast members in this production. That is massive! They practically overflow the stage, which brings a real overwhelming and dramatic presence to the ensemble scenes.
Concepcion (The Engineer) was fantastically playful, quirky and colourful. He made the role his own and was a baddie you hated to love. He took full advantage of every dire situation with a dirty twinkle in his eye. I wish I could name every member of the supporting cast as they were superb.
Gilmore (Chris) and Kim (Kim) made an unbearably beautiful pair. Together they were genuine and heartwarming. But it was Kim that stole the show. She matched her early vulnerability and innocence with impressive grit and determination as the story played on. Her voice was crisp, pure and angelic. A harsh contrast to the destruction and hate that she lived in.
I was sad to see that Kim didn’t claim the last bow of the show, as the Engineer took that spot instead…
2. Enormous Set
I have never seen a set of this scale. Especially for a touring production. Vietnam was shown to be dark, dirty and distressing. A broken country. Not forgetting the seedy side with naughty neon signs lighting up the sex ridden streets. One scene change included, what felt like, a to scale version of the Statue of Liberty’s head!
But it was the helicopter that soared above the rest. A clever use of projection melted into a 3D chopper landing on stage. Jaw dropping would be the best description of this moment.
3. Expert Music & Lyrics
But the real heart of this show comes down to the incredible sound. I recognised some of the huge hits such as ‘The Movie in My Mind’ and ‘The Heat is On’ but I am now obsessed with the lesser known numbers.
I fell in love with the jazzy duet ‘Last Night of the World’, was entertained by the frantic orchestration of ‘American Dream’ and terrified by the foreboding sound of ‘You Will Not Touch Him’. The music brings the emotion; happiness followed by fear and soon sadness. There is no dialogue and rightly so. The music and lyrics are all you need.
I am not surprised Miss Saigon has been performed in 32 countries, seen by over 36 million people and has won over 70 awards. It has everything you want in a Musical. It literally ticks every box. Love, sex, war, heartbreak and humour. A bit of glitz and glamour in there too. Big songs with big sets. I am not joking when I say I have listened to the soundtrack every day since. It’s addictive. I’m itching to see it again, and again, and again.
Miss Saigon is a ‘wow’ a minute. An exhausting, captivating and awe inspiring masterpiece. A formidable force of EPIC. It’s, it’s, ahhh!
There is plenty of time to book tickets as it runs in Manchester until 12th May, or find a tour date near you.
Photo credits: Cameron Mackintosh & Johan Persson