There are very few productions that leave you feeling emotionally drained, tears pooling down your face after the curtain drops for the final time, but that’s the exact situation I found myself in after watching Miss Saigon.
Sir Cameron Mackintosh’s Olivier Award-winning production has just begun is nine-week residency at the Hippodrome, where it will play to an audience of around 100,000 during its time in the city. This is by no means a small production; it’s only visiting 10 theatres on its UK tour, due to the scale of the production very few in the country can house it. It takes 12 trucks to transfer the set, two days to unload and build, with a cost of around £100,000 to move it. Impressive.
Saigon has celebrated great success over the years. Based on Giacomo Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, it follows the story of 17-year-old Kim (Sooha Kim) who meets and falls in love with American GI, Chris (Ashley Gilmour) at the back end of the Vietnam war. But when the pair are torn apart by the fall of Saigon, Kim goes on a quest to find the love of her life with disastrous consequences.
The pair make the perfect Kim and Chris, pouring out their emotions through an simply stunning array of songs combined with an exceptional score. I challenge anyone not to shed a tear as you walk through their journey. Both deliver on every level, with outstanding vocals that are enough to make you want to sit back and forget about the heartbreaking situation that’s unfolding right before your eyes.
There’s nothing that Miss Saigon lacks in. The songs are so powerful, it only took until the sixth – Sun and Moon – for me to realise the power that lays within this show; I found myself unable to hold back any longer as the emotions of Sooha’s and Ashley’s performance took over, reminding me why I feel in love with Miss Saigon when I first watched it three years ago. Maybe it’s because now, more than ever, watching their journey feels so much more poignant with the current politics that we’re living in.
Stand out performances are hard to come by in a show, but Saigon has plenty; from Marsha Songcome’s (Gigi) outstanding vocals in The Movie in My Mind to Ryan O’Gorman’s (John) spectacular delivery of Bui Doi in the opening of Act Two, that left the audience in complete silence. One performance that can’t be ignored is that of Red Conceptions (The Engineer). Love or hate this character, Red has stepped into the shoes of The Engineer and made it his own. It’s impossible not to applaud him for the incredible delivery of the iconic The American Dream.
The cast and company are without a doubt one of the strongest I’ve ever seen in a touring show. Both Zoe Doano (Ellen) and Gerald Santos (Thuy) deliver exceptional performances that make you wish you could just see that little bit more of them to truly appreciate the sheer talent and charisma that they both bring to the stage. Praises must also be given to the ensemble, who only add to the intense drama with stunning dance and acrobatic displays.
It’s hard to comprehend just how spectacular Miss Saigon is. The set changes are clean, the design rivals anything that I’ve seen from a touring production and the whole show captivated my heart and soul from the very moment I was welcomed into Dreamland. Awe-inspiring, sensational, outstanding and mind-blowingly brilliant, it came as no surprise that the show received a standing ovation last night.
I lived the American Dream with Miss Saigon last night. If you do one thing over the next two months go and watch this show, I promise you, you won’t be disappointed. The heat is well and truly on at Birmingham Hippodrome for its biggest show of the season. Bravo, Miss Saigon you won me over once again.