The lights are dim and I am sat in excited anticipation for the curtain to lift at the packed out Birmingham Hippodrome. Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed new production of Boublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical Miss Saigon has embarked on a major UK Tour and I am here to witness it for the first time.
“This is the fourth time I’ve seen it”, whispers the woman next to me, “I drove up from Essex to see this as it’s such an amazing production. I warn you, you won’t get through the second song without crying.”
Epic love story
Based on Giacomo Puccini‘s opera Madame Butterfly and winner of a record-breaking nine Whatsonstage Awards 2015 including Best Show, this epic love story, set during the Vietnam War, tells the tragic tale of young bar girl Kim, orphaned by war, who falls in love with an American GI called Chris – but their lives are torn apart by the fall of Saigon.
The haunting music represents Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublils’ second major success, following Les Misérables. The musical’s inspiration was reportedly a photograph, showing a Vietnamese mother leaving her child at a Vietnamese air base to board an airplane headed for the United States where her father, an ex-GI, would able to provide a better life for the child. Schönberg considered this mother’s actions for her child to be “The Ultimate Sacrifice,” an idea central to the plot of Miss Saigon.
A visual feast
The lights dim further. In the centre of the stage is a young girl, head down, surrounded by the chaos of Saigon under fire. Screaming bombs fall, explosions reverberate through my rib cage and I’m instantly hooked.
The sets are amazing- from the dirty streets of Saigon, to the sweaty bars and brothels. You feel engrossed, as if you’re experiencing every emotion alongside them and as the lady next to me foretold, by the end of the second song, ‘Movie in my Mind’, where the showgirls reflect on their dreams of a better life, I feel a lump in my throat.
The chemistry between the characters Chris (Ashley Gilmour) and Kim (Sooha Kim) is electrifying and you can feel the passion and depth of the love between them. ‘The Engineer’ (Red Concepcion) is a flamboyant and opportunistic character, mesmerising and hilarious, yet at times poignant. Ellen’s (Zoë Doano) character’s hurt and betrayal is beautifully portrayed and Thuy (Gerald Santos) is an opposing presence on stage and commands the attention of the audience with his strong and authoritative voice. The cast as a whole is an array of talent and you can tell only the finest actors have been selected for this UK tour.
The show is the star
By the time the curtain falls I feel I have been swept up in a tide of emotion and I have loved every minute.
Since its London première in 1989, Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Miss Saigon has become one of the most successful musicals in history and I can see why – the show IS the star.
Miss Saigon will be at Wales Millennium Centre from Wednesday 29 November-Saturday 6 January 2018