MusicalNorth WestReview

Miss Saigon – Palace Theatre, Manchester

Music: Claude-Michel Schönberg

Lyrics: Alain Boublil & Richard Maltby Jr.

Book: Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg

Director: Laurence Connor

Reviewer: Iris Beaumont

The heat is certainly on in Manchester as Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil’s Madame Butterfly inspired musical lands in the city as part of its Uk Tour.

Schönberg and Boublil’s emotional musical is set during the Vietnam war and the fall of Saigon. Chris (Ashley Gilmour) a young G.I falls in love with Kim (Sooha Kim) who is earning money working for the sleazy Engineer (Red Concepción) – over the course of the next few days the relationship deepens amidst the ever-growing tensions of the war, the fall out both personally and politically has major ramifications for all involved – are they for the better? That’s up to personal judgement but one thing that is clear and obvious, Miss Saigon is a hit and one that packs a powerful and emotional punch.

This current production directed by Laurence Connor is a revisited and slightly re-worked version of the last UK tour – and most recently seen just over three years ago in the West End of London, the storyline is almost untouched apart from a slightly misguided change in song for Ellen – although it’s clear the reason behind the decision, it just feels a little out of place, however Connor manages to contain the energy and vibrancy of the production throughout and some stunning moments play out on the stage – this alongside his reworkings of Phantom and Les Mis will surely go down as some of the best musical stagings of modern times.

Totie Driver and Matt Kinley’s evocative set design really captures the dark and shadowy atmosphere of war-torn Vietnam especially, when lit by Bruno Poet’s sculptural lighting design. This set provides the strong ensemble the perfect playground for their performances.

Concepción is brilliant as The Engineer, bringing a beautifully balanced performance that captures the desires and needs of the character brilliantly his rendition of The American Dream being one of the show’s highlights, equally evocative in her rendition of Movie in My Mind is Na-Young Jean as Gigi. Storng support comes from Gerald Santos as Thuy, Zoê Doana as Chris’ American Wife Ellen and Ryan O’Gorman as John – whose rendition of Bui Doi at the top of act two is nothing short of sensational.

As the young lovers Chris (Gilmore) and Kim (Kim) have a chemistry that electrifies the stage – Gilmore perhaps being one of the strongest young actors who have recently played the role, likewise, Kim plays the lead role with a touching vulnerability that ensures we connect emotionally with the character from the first time she steps on stage to the tear-inducing final act of love.

It’s productions like Miss Saigon that put many of the other touring productions to shame, with such a strong ensemble, a set that puts the wobbly efforts of others to shame and a score that is vibrant and rich it’s hard not to fall in love with Miss Saigon and have a need to see it again and again.

Runs in Manchester until 12th May | Image: Johan Persson

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