Reviewed by Katy Hart
The legendary musical Miss Saigon by Schönberg and Boublil opened at Drury Lane in 1989, it had a 25th anniversary revival in 2014 (where it set a world record for opening day ticket sales) and is now embarking on a 14 month UK tour where it has currently landed in Bristol.
Last evening, I had the absolute pleasure of going to watch this incredible show. I knew having seen this in the West End back in the 1990’s that Miss Saigon really is every bit as good as it is acclaimed to be, and it is one of my favourite musicals. I didn’t expect however for this UK tour to be as magical and as heart wrenchingly beautiful as it is. It absolutely surpassed all I had remembered it being.
It is an adaptation of Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly and is about love, separation, hope and sacrifice.
The musical is set during the final days of the Vietnam war where the beautiful, young, Kim is rescued by the notorious owner of a brothel and bar, Dreamland. On her first evening working she encounters an American GI named Chris and they fall in love. They marry in a traditional wedding understood to be a lifelong commitment by Eastern women, however they are then torn apart by the fall of Saigon. For three years a heartbroken Kim believes the love of her life, Chris will find his way back to her and they will be reunited where she can share with him the news of the son she has borne that he knows nothing about. Chris having returned to America a broken man, finally finds happiness again in the arms of his new bride Ellen. This tragically sad story comes to its conclusion with Kim making the ultimate sacrifice to give her child the life she knows she can never provide for him.
With a large cast of approximately 60 performers and very clever stage management and direction, there are so many times throughout the performance that you are left completely in awe. Scenes such as Ho Chi Minh City with the musical number The Morning of the Dragon, are captivating. A huge statue of the revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh dominates the stage as soldiers dance in formation waving flags and streamers, surrounding a dragon. There is also the moment at the American Embassy when the theatre is filled with lights and the most deafening noise as a life size helicopter comes in and lands on stage to take the American soldiers out. The plight of the Vietnamese desperate to find a way out is heartbreaking.
There were some absolute standout performances, in particular Sooha Kim as Kim was truly fantastic. She gave a beautifully, moving and emotional performance and the onstage chemistry between her and Ashley Gilmour who plays Chris, was a delight to watch and listen to. In particular their voices blended perfectly as they came together to sing the Sun and Moon so passionately and expressively it almost felt an intrusion to be there.
Red Concepción who plays the part of Engineer brings a little more light-hearted touch to the show which is at times in real contrast to the notoriously nasty character he actually plays. His performance of The American Dream really is a stand out moment, and you cannot fail to love his charismatic character.
Harvey Ip playing the role of Tam, Kim’s young son was the most impeccably behaved young boy on stage. He looked so young and so vulnerable and really made this heart-wrenching musical so powerful.
This UK tour is every part as good if not better than the West end production I saw so many years ago. It is something that will remain with me as the story and truths behind Miss Saigon can be seen on our televisions daily – the millions of displaced refugees, many of them children with absent fathers, a world filled with people moving in a sea of tears. The programme sums this up by saying “in the dark of the theatre you join an audience that stretches around the world and back through time with people who have cried, and cheered for love, justice, understanding and just for better”.
An absolute must see – one of the best musicals I have ever seen.
Age Guidance: 12 plus | Duration: 2 hours 50 minutes including an interval
Tickets cost from £25 to £71 (plus £4 transaction fee).
Miss Saigon is at the Bristol Hippodrome from 16 May to 23 June 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/bristol or call the box office on 0844 871 3012.
Bristol Hippodrome, St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol, BS1 4UZ | 0844 871 3012