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Miss Saigon: A simply stunning revival

| Theatre | 05/11/2014

Miss Saigon at the Prince Edward Theatre
Miss Saigon at the Prince Edward Theatre

It’s been twenty-five years since Miss Saigon’s premiere, and this autumn the Vietnamese war-set musical returns to the West End, and can only be described as a compelling triumph. It was a mark of inspiration to relocate the story of Madame Butterfly to war-torn Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon. Miss Saigon powerfully conveys on-stage through inspired acting, emotionally robust singing, and splendid set-designs, the heartbreak, confusion and terror of those fateful years. Miss Saigon is a rip-roaring triumph, and quite possibly 2014s best West End opening musical.

The play is set during the turbulent aftermath of the Vietnam War and the dying days of American occupation. The hardships of the conflict have forced young Vietnamese women to work as prostitutes, and go-go dancers for the American troops, under the watchful eye of sinister local pimp known simply as The Engineer. Following the deaths of her parents, vulnerable rural virgin Kim finds herself trapped in the inner-city red light district web, only to be saved by American GI Chris. Their budding romance is an ill-fated one, as the fall of Saigon separates them; returning a traumatised Chris to America, and trapping Kim in a life of poverty. However, their romance bears a most precious fruit, a baby boy, Tam, which leads Chris back to the East; leading to a tragic, and momentous life-changing ending.

Miss Saigon’s brilliance does not just lie in its acting, singing and stage-sets alone, but also in its deep and thought-provoking narrative. The production reminds the West End audience, both young and old, of the harsh realities in everyday life during the Vietnam War years. The Engineer for all his eccentricity and sinister character has one hope in life – to live out his American Dream. However, the reality of the situation was that the land of hope and glory’s American Dream was a myth, but it was a myth that captivated many Vietnamese, it was a dream which was ultimately out of their grasps. In the case of Kim, we see a mother’s ultimate sacrifice, an act of pure and unconditional love, to ensure her little boy lives out his American Dream, with or without her.

Eva Noblezada (Kim) In Miss Saigon. Prince Edward Theatre.

Eva Noblezada (Kim) In Miss Saigon. Prince Edward Theatre.

The stage designs of Matt Kinley and Totie Driver brilliantly balanced the bright lights of the Dreamland Club where heroine Kim first meets her beloved Chris, and brings great levels of sustained horror, and intimacy when required. The sets are chilling, natural, and mesmerising, and aided by a masterful use of lighting by Bruno Poet. The much anticipated helicopter descent in amidst the fall of Saigon is probably the best and most technical scene in the West End.

At the tender age of eighteen, actress Eva Noblezda made an extraordinary and beautifully astonishing West End debut. She was vulnerable and tender, fragile and strong; she brought poise, power, and strength to the role of Kim. Her vocal range was breath-taking and her performance moved many to tears. Alistair Brammer gave a strong, powerful, and commanding performance as her beloved Chris. Brammer was an ideal fit to play American GI Chris both in physical appearance and vocal abilities. Jon Jon Briones as the sinister and lustful engineer gave an unscrupulous performance, and had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. Briones final number the American Dream brought the bright colours of his American Dream to the stage in a dark sardonic manner.

There were also impressive performances from Rachelle Ann Go as the outgoing Gigi, Hugh Maynard who gave a sensational and memorable performance of Bui Doi, and Tamsin Carroll as Ellen (Chris’ wife). Of course we cannot leave out the sweet and adorable performance by William Dae as little Tam.

Eva Noblezada (Kim) and Alistair Brammer  (Chris)

Eva Noblezada (Kim) and Alistair Brammer (Chris) in Miss Saigon. Prince Edward Theatre.

Miss Saigon is a truly unique West End production. Its songs are powerfully performed, and its sets are unrivalled, leaving the audience captivated from beginning to end. Its revival brings the horror, sacrifice, and hardship of one the twentieth-century’s most conflicted and tragic wars to a new generation who never experienced those dark and fateful days, and is yet as relevant today as it was twenty-five years ago. Miss Saigon doesn’t hide in the shadows; it’s a real musical with a powerful story at its heart – its revival is simply stunning.

Written by Sandip Kana | @sandipkana

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