Find out why the West-End Revival at Prince Edward Theatre is this summer’s hottest ticket.
1. The Story
Striking, heartbreaking, lyrically beautiful and melodically rich, Miss Saigon is regarded as one of the world’s best musicals.
The idea for the show’s plot originated in 1985, whilst composer Claude-Michel Schönberg and lyricist Alain Boublil were working on their other major success story, Les Misérables. Schönberg stumbled upon a striking photograph depicting the young daughter of an American GI and a Vietnamese woman leaving Saigon to begin a new life in the United States with her father. The child is crying. The emotional impact of the image was fused with an idea Schönberg and Boubil had been toying with for some time: an updated, musical version of Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly. The result was Miss Saigon.
Set in the Vietnam War, in the final few days before the American Evacuation of Saigon, the show tells the story of seventeen year old Saigon bar girl Kim and her doomed love affair with American GI Chris. The show’s explosive setting, all-encompassing story and dynamic characters mean it has remained beloved by audiences ever since its 1989 London debut. Twenty-five years later, director Laurence Connor brings the story to life in a spectacular, thought-provoking and incredibly moving production at the Prince Edward Theatre.
2. The Cast
The original London production made an international star of Lea Salonga, who won a Laurence Olivier Award and a Tony for her role as Kim. In the 2014 revival, eighteen-year-old American high schooler Eva Noblezada steps into the limelight as Kim. For Noblezada this will undoubtedly be a similarly career-making performance.
Captivating and incredibly talented, Noblezada has a phenomenal voice and is absolutely believable as Kim. She perfectly captures her character’s emotional journey; her portrayal of the character is incredibly nuanced and her singing so effortless. Her relationship with Alistair Brammer’s Chris is also realistic. Brammer gives an impressive performance, capturing all of his character’s confusion and passion. Together they make a winning couple. As The Engineer, the sleazy, Jack-of-all-trades owner of the club at which Kim works, Jon Jon Briones perfectly runs the line between providing comic relief and representing the gritty reality of war-torn Vietnam. Kwang-Ho Hong, who plays Kim’s would-be husband Thuy, also deserves a mention. Thuy is a supporter of the Communist regime and is a threatening character, but Hong’s performance means his character remains multi-faceted: he successfully conveys the conflicting emotions he feels towards Kim.
3. The Music
Miss Saigon is a sung-through musical. Every song manages to be both integral to the plot and equally as rich and musically dynamic as the rest. The new production is so good that every scene and every number impresses, the audience has no time to catch its breath as they are enveloped in each stunning performance.
There are certain numbers that stand out. Early on in the production, Kim duets with fellow bar girl Gigi, played by talented Rachelle Ann Go, on The Movie in My Mind. The number, which juxtaposes the grim realities of Gigi’s life as a prostitute in Saigon and the life she dreams of in the United States, is goose-bump inducing and sets the tone perfectly for what is to come. Alistair Brammer also impresses in Chris’ song Why God Why, in which his character reflects on the night he spent with Kim and wonders what to do when he “liked my memories as they were/ But now I’ll leave remembering her/ Just her.
The big chorus numbers are equally as show-stopping. The Engineer’s satirical The American Dream is a standout number and fantastically performed by Jon Jon Briones. The only song which fails to deliver is the newly written Maybe, which replaces Now That I’ve Seen Her. To explain the context of the song would be a spoiler, but Maybe simply does not pack the emotional punch of its predecessor and is forgettable, despite being sung by West End veteran Tamsin Carroll. Overall however, Miss Saigon’s score is one of its greatest assets and the stunning songs are one of the key reasons why the show is a must-see.
4. The Staging
The biggest set-piece of the production is the number Kim’s Nightmare, depicting the evacuation of Saigon on April 30 1975. Fast, furious and emotionally charged, this scene is a masterpiece of staging, switching between the inside and the outside of the American Embassy as Kim and Chris frantically try to reach each other. The evacuation begins as an illusion created by lighting and sound effects and culminates in a real helicopter hovering above the stage
This scene is so impressive because its awe-inspiring spectacle never overshadows the emotional human impact of what is happening to the characters and what happened to the people at the time. The combination of the performances from the company, the impassioned score and the impressive staging creates one of the most moving moments in the production.
Miss Saigon is the best show in the West End right now. Heartrending, fantastically staged, with stunning performances, it’s the absolute must-see West-End show of the summer.