Writer: Boublil and SchÓnberg
Music: Claude-Michel SchÓnberg
Lyrics: Richard Maltby, JR and Alain Boublil
Director: Laurence Connor
Choreographer: Bob Avian
Reviewer: Georgie Bird
Cameron MacKintosh brings his revamped production of Miss Saigon to Theatre Royal Plymouth. Set during the Vietnamese war, it tells the story of orphan Kim, who is forced to work in a brothel but falls in love with an American soldier, Chris. The show opens in a raunchy, rowdy and chaotic Vietnamese brothel called Dreamland run by the sleazy and flamboyant Engineer. Here, we are introduced to Kim, the newest girl in Dreamland. She’s paraded around by The Engineer as a piece of meat (aptly dressed in white to signify her virginity status), subsequently being promised to the indecisive G.I. Chris.
The chemistry between Kim and Chris is electric and both of their voices are extraordinary. Sooha Kim, in particular, has a fantastic range. Their romance is played with tenderness, longing and hope, ensuring that the audience is rooting for Kim and her ‘American Dream’. Sooha Kim’s acting range is every bit as excellent as her voice. Her portrayal of Kim is multi-faceted; ranging from innocent country girl to protective mother, to lover scorned.
A major theme running throughout, is how many of the Vietnamese women are desperate to escape and live the American Dream. The soldiers are a way out; a chance to get an American visa. Their devastation is poignantly portrayed through a heart-wrenching performance of Movie in my Mind, perfectly capturing the desperation of these women who are longing for a better life.
Red ConcepciÓn as The Engineer is the standout performance and brings moments of pure joy and comedy. A particularly memorable scene comes in the second half, when The Engineer sings about his quest for the American Dream surrounded by Burlesque style dancers, gyrating outlandishly on top of a car. This abruptly disappears and he is left alone on the stage, stripped of his American Dream.
The staging works effortlessly, taking the audience from the brothels to the battlefield in a matter of seconds. Flashing red lights and sounds of gunfire create an immediate sense of unease and anxiety, mimicking the fear of war-torn Vietnam. The incredible staging makes it impossible for the audience’s attention to wane, even for a moment.
A standout scene which perfectly summarises the brilliance of the staging is the evacuation of the American embassy. The staging here is minimal, a large metal fence separates the hysterical Vietnamese women begging the American soldiers not to leave. The sound of a helicopter roars through the audience before transforming into a replica helicopter, creating a scene so emotionally charged with abandonment and betrayal, it will stick in the minds of the audience long after the play has finished.
The whole show is complemented by a magnificent live orchestra that syncs perfectly with every part of the performance. Miss Saigon is a perfect blend of action, comedy and tragedy that makes a real and serious point about the devastating consequences of war. Its universal themes such as love and betrayal is why it continues to be a classic musical and still connect with audiences across the world. A performance that is not to be missed.
Runs until 4 August 2018 | Image: Johan Persson