Miss Saigon is a truly classic musical. I remember seeing the iconic artwork on my Mum’s vinyl cover at a young age, and the image has stuck with me ever since.
In my mind, it’s up there alongside Les Misérables, Cats, and Mamma Mia. The epitome of culture; a show to aspire to see and one which you anticipate will completely blow you away once you’re lucky enough to see it.
My luck came this week when I finally got tickets to see the show at The Mayflower Theatre in Southampton, on its UK tour. The many years of wondering would be worth it, and when I settled down in the stalls with my friends and a glass of wine, I was buzzing with anticipation.
I went to see this show with no background knowledge. I understood it was set at the end of the Vietnam war, and that it involved a love story (as these things usually do) but that was it. In hindsight, I am so glad I went in ‘blind’; it meant that every moment was a surprise and each twist an emotional rollercoaster.
Miss Saigon, set in the chaos of the end of the Vietnam War in the 1970s, tells a tragic tale of love, loss, and lust. Seventeen-year-old Kim is thrown from the peace of her village, which is razed to the ground, into the seedy world of bar work and prostitution. An encounter with a handsome GI turns her world upside down and, when separated during Saigon’s fall and the subsequent turmoil of her country, she spends three years desperately trying to find her way back to him.
It’s an intense and dramatic tale made all the more impressive with a fabulously talented cast. Each member of the team stands out while on stage and the ensemble is captivating and of the highest quality, performing complex and stunning sequences and filling the stage with their presence.
A few of the lead figures really stole the show for me, though. Joreen Bautista, who plays Kim, packs an incredible punch in this challenging role. Her voice is incredible, and her passion and portrayal of loss and pain is the work of a very talented performer. Her paramour, Ashley Gilmour, who plays Chris, is handsome, heroic, and has a fantastic voice too, and the pair makes a believable and breathtaking duo.
Red Concepción, in my opinion, practically steals the show as the devious and fabulously sleazy Engineer, providing wonderful light relief in parts, with excellent timing, a sly manner and crackling confidence – but presents us at the same time with a poignant, somewhat sad character, whose sordid passions and aspirations portray an American Dream which translates directly into today’s culture.
Red’s Engineer is the perfect balance of drama and depth and got a big cheer from me at the end.
This show is visually stunning. I have experienced some musicals which, when on tour away from their London home, are somewhat diluted. This is not the case for Miss Saigon.
From the very first note to the very last, the set is alive with colour and noise. From the vibrant and tacky bars and ‘red light districts’ of Saigon and Bangkok, to the dramatic helicopter rescue, and everything in between, this is a show that will take your breath away.
I felt completely immersed and dazzled by the production – and of course, the live orchestra provides the stunning score that will not leave a dry eye in the house.
Miss Saigon tugs at your heartstrings continually; it is a feast for the eyes and the ears, and it flows incredibly well, moving from tender ballads to ballsy, bikini-clad bar scenes with ease and class. It’s a perfectly balanced production and leaves you reeling at the end.
We are told so many stories in one intricate tale; the heart-crushing romance between Kim and Chris; the desperation of the girls who sell their bodies for a chance for survival or a new life in America (beautifully portrayed by Na-Young Jeon as Gigi in her performance of ‘The Movie in my Mind’); an education on the Vietnam War; the heartbreak of the abandoned Bui Doi; the everlasting American Dream; and the trauma of PTSD.
I count myself incredibly lucky to have seen this show on its UK tour, and I highly recommend that you don’t miss out either. It’s a classic for a reason and this production is not to be missed.