Reviewed by Emma Legge
Miss Saigon, it’s one of those musicals that I think nearly everyone has heard of, lots of people have seen, and one that some people, including my friends have seen multiple times, yet it’s one that has passed me by. So I was very excited all day today to finally tick this one off my hit list of the ‘big’ theatre shows. I took my nearly 15-year-old daughter, Sophie with me. The age guideline is 12 and I wholeheartedly agree with this and urge you to bear it in mind as there is indeed strong language, sexual suggestions and some very skimpy outfits!
Set in 1975 in Saigon, we follow the story of 17-year-old Kim who finds herself in a lap dancing club after losing both her parents in the battles of the Vietnamese War. Here she meets and falls in love with Chris, an American soldier. Kim, for our show was played by the ‘alternate actress’ Joreen Bautista, herself only young, but what a fabulous actress she is with a really incredible singing voice who showed such emotion throughout the show. Chris was played by Ashley Gilmour and the two actors showed such a believable relationship between them that I found watching them enchanting, heart wrenching and very emotional.
Of course, the show is accompanied by a strong soundtrack that is delivered spectacularly by the main characters and supported beautifully by the many members of the ‘ensemble.’ My favourite performance of the show is by the character The Engineer, you meet him right at the starts and he becomes a key character throughout. The Engineer is played by Red Concepcion and in Sophie’s words, he stole the show! Red, played the part with such flamboyance and humour that although really, you should dislike The Engineer, you just can’t help loving him!
The scene that I really must mention was when they were recalling the time when Kim and Chris were searching for each other. We’d already heard gunfire and aircraft and seen flashing lights but the set designers took it all to a new level when they replayed a helicopter scene. Sophie’s jaw was wide open as this very realistic helicopter was lowered towards the stage, it was a loud, eerie and heart-breaking scene that really did take my breath away.
And just like with most of the real life stories of the terrible Vietnam War, this story ends tragically too, Sophie and I were in floods of tears as the curtain came down. Sophie looked at me and wailed, ‘surely that’s not the end’!! But in the car on the way home, the show stayed with us so much that we discussed how there could have been no other ending. The storyline is perfect, the casting, soundtrack, set design is spectacular, in short, this show is an incredible masterpiece and an absolute must-see for all musical theatre lovers.
Tickets cost from £30 (booking fees may apply).
Miss Saigon is at the Birmingham Hippodrome from 26 July to 23 September 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com or call the box office on 0844 338 5000.
Birmingham Hippodrome, Hurst St, Southside, Birmingham, B5 4TB | 0844 338 5000