Music: Claude-Michel Schönberg
Lyrics: Richard Maltby Jnr and Alain Boublil
Directors: Robert Hastie and Anthony Lau
The heat is well and truly on in Sheffield as the highly anticipated, first ever non-replica production of Boublil and Schönberg’s classic musicalMiss Saigonhas finally started performances. It tells the story of Kim and how she falls in love with an American G.I. against a backdrop of the Vietnam War. Alongside Kim’s story, it tells of The Engineer and their hopes and dreams to migrate to the USA.
Robert Hastie and Anthony Lau’s production ofMiss Saigonis a completely fresh look at the show, which aims to try and fix some of the issues the show has been faced with in its past. It is, at its heart, a beautiful, intimate and heartbreaking love story but they still manage to create a sense of scale and epicness where required. Some moments of staging showcase their creative genius, such as Bui Doi, whilst others such as the deaths in the show don’t quite land as they should do. Jade Hackett’s choreography is fantastic and adds energy and colour where needed. Her interpretation of The American Dream is a highlight of the show. Ben Stones’ set design is quite simple. At times, a few more physical set pieces wouldn’t have gone amiss to help depict the specific locations the audience fine themselves in. However the simplicity really focuses the show on their characters and their relationships in a way that hasn’t really been seen before. Andrzej Goulding’s video and animation design, alongside Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting design, works well to create a sense of spectacle despite a minimal set. Stones, Goulding and Yun and Mike Walker as sound design work together exceptionally to create the sensory overload required for the helicopter moment that everyone is waiting for – no spoilers here as to how they do it, but it is impressive, creative and potentially more moving than that scene has ever been.
Stuart Burt CDG has assembled a phenomenal cast for this production. Headlining the cast as the first ever female Engineer is Joanna Ampil. If you didn’t already know, you would never have known this role was traditionally played by a man. Ampil’s characterisation is spot on, creating a slightly mysterious character who the audience can still root for most of the time. She delivers some powerhouse vocals, and has fantastic rapport with all of the rest of the cast.
Leading the cast alongside Ampil is Jessica Lee as Kim. Lee’s performance is brilliant. She has terrific control of her voice, blowing the roof off with her belt whilst delivering the softer vocal moments beautifully. She brings a youthful naivety to the role which works really well. Her positivity and optimism makes her inevitable downfall all the more crushing. Christian Maynard gives a strong performance as Chris opposite Lee. His vocals are fantastic, with a powerful rendition of Why, God, Why?. He brings a modern edge to his vocal performance which is refreshing and works well. Maynard and Lee work together really well vocally, with Last Night of the World being a joy to listen to.
The supporting cast is packed full of impressive performances. Shanay Holmes, despite the limited stage time, manages to create a fully fleshed out Ellen who the audience can almost get behind as much as Kim, making the love triangle in the show heartbreaking. Her vocals are phenomenal, blowing the roof of with I Still Believe and giving a sublime performance of Maybe. Ethan Le Phong gave a chilling and terrifying performance as Thuy, whilst Shane O’Riordan was very impressive as Chris. O’Riordan’s vocals are sensational, with Bui Doi getting one of the biggest audience responses of the night.
This production ofMiss Saigonis a fresh look at the classic, whilst still being theMiss Saigonwe’re all so familiar with. It balances telling an intimate story with the spectacle of particular moments well. The show is thoroughly moving, and beautifully performed by a phenomenal cast.