Book & lyrics: Alain Boublil
Music: Claude-Michel Schonberg
Additional Lyrics: Richard Maltby Jnr. & Michael Mahler
Director: Laurence Connor
Reviewer: Beth Steer
Pitted as the ‘epic love story of our time’, Miss Saigon is an absolute smash hit. In Cameron Mackintosh’s new version of the Schonberg and Boublil classic, the dark history of America’s involvement in the Vietnam war is brought to life – and death – with shocking, blockbuster clarity.
Following Chris (Ashley Gilmour), an American army GI, during his deployment in Vietnamese Saigon, Miss Saigon is a tale of love and war – examining how the two intersect with brutal clarity. Chris’ Vietnamese love interest, Kim (Sooha Kim), is swept up by the GI’s charms, left broken-hearted, and facing empty promises when the US military leave the country.
Exploring Vietnam’s history, along with American greed and, later, shame, it’s a fascinating plot line – mapping out the timeline of the war, and what followed – set to a fantastic score. It’s gripping, powerful, and moving – with some top-class vocal performances and a brilliant orchestra.
Kim’s voice is mesmerising, and her duets with Gilmour are spine-tingling. As The Engineer – the sly, conniving master of DreamLand – Red Concepcion is fabulously devilish, portraying the cowardly villain with panache and glamour. Songs such as The Movie in My Mind and Sun and Moon raise endless applause from the audience for their sheer vocal prowess, while The American Dream and The Confrontation are filled with drama, grit, and glitter. The entire ensemble is extremely talented.
The choreography (Bob Avian) particularly in the military scenes – is clever, powerful, and chilling. The versatility of the dancers is impressive, and the production is fluid and changing. The staging (Matt Kinley) is truly breathtaking – reminiscent of a blockbuster film in both its drama and its sheer scale. The sound, lighting, and set transport the audience across countries, and years, in a way that is all-encompassing and magnificent.
Miss Saigon is a show stopper. Exploring America’s legacy of the Bui Doi – the mixed-race children fathered by US soldiers, and, frequently, born to Vietnamese prostitutes – and the country’s attempts to make amends, it’s a musical that rings true across generations. It truly is the epic love story of our time.
Runs until 6 January 2018 | Image: Michael Le Poer Trench