Review Roundup: MISS SAIGON Opens in the West End- All the Reviews!
Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's Miss Saigon makes its highly anticipated return to London tonight, May 21, 2014 at the Prince Edward Theatre, in the musical's 25th anniversary year.
This new production is directed by Laurence Connor with musical staging by Bob Avian and additional choreography by Geoffrey Garratt, production design by Totie Driver and Matt Kinley based on an original concept by Adrian Vaux, costume design by Andreane Neofitou, lighting design by Bruno Poet, sound design by Mick Potter, and orchestrations by William David Brohn. Musical supervision is by Stephen Brooker and John Rigby. Musical direction is by Alfonso Casado Trigo.
This epic love story 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.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
UK Reviewer, BroadwayWorld: Well, it's still a visual feast, and it proudly boasts a handful of incredible performances. Jon Jon Briones is the show's stand-out, stealing every scene his Engineer comes close to, bringing freshness and exuberance to a role he knows so very well. Eva Noblezada's Kim is strong, yet fragile and all the more remarkable given this is her first professional role...However, Alistair Brammer's Chris largely fails to make us connect with his damaged Marine, despite some impressive intense anger in the second act...As for that iconic helicopter scene? It fails to land. Literally...It's still impressive, but is not the jaw-dropping spectacle you remember; perhaps a handy metaphor for the entire production.
Michael Billington, The Guardian: So how does Boublil and Schönberg's musical stand up 25 years after its premiere? In this new production by Laurence Connor, it survives very well as a piece of musical storytelling and as a public spectacle. It's not a show one loves, in the way one does Guys and Dolls or Sweeney Todd, but I found myself watching it with a professional admiration...The show's satirical quality is best embodied by the character of the Engineer...He was excellently played by Jonathan Pryce in the original, but here Jon Jon Briones makes him an even grubbier, sleazier figure who is the victim both of his background and pathetic fantasies that see him in the penultimate number, The American Dream, pleasuring himself on the bonnet of a Cadillac...If I was less moved by the love story, it was no fault of the actors but of the fact that Schönberg's score becomes generic and rhetorica in the big romantic numbers. They are, however, very well sung by Eva Noblezada as Kim and Alistair Brammer as Chris.
Charles Spencer, The Telegraph: But the trick of the show, and of this superbly slick, powerfully acted and splendidly sung revival, is that while you are watching it, it often feels like the greatest musical you have ever seen... the production superbly captures the confusion and terror of war, and the desperate lives of the young Vietnamese women working as prostitutes and go-go dancers for the American troops under the watch of a sinister sardonic local pimp called The Engineer...The 18-year-old Eva Noblezada is extraordinarily vulnerable and touching as Kim, and her raw, deeply felt performance and soaring voice lend the show its heart. There were moments when she moved me to tears. Alistair Brammer gives a powerful performance as her beloved Chris, though fails to generate much warmth, while Jon Jon Briones is memorably seedy as the unscrupulous Engineer and gets maximum value from his big number The American Dream, the one moment in the show of Broadway razzle dazzle, albeit accompanied by dark sardonic humour.
Michael Coveney, WhatsOnStage: I had not seen or heard Miss Saigon since the tumultuous opening night at Drury Lane, and while Laurence Connor's competent revival presses most of the right buttons in this melodramatic re-write ofMadame Butterfly during and after the evacuation from Saigon in 1975, it's neither as good as, nor better than, Nicholas Hytner's 1989 operatic original. In one area, though, it is its equal: in the casting of 18 year-old Eva Noblezada...as Kim, whose astonishing voice is flawless in a wide register and whose acting is assured and touching...
Quentin Letts, The Daily Mail: Sir Cameron Mackintosh's revival of the 1980s musical Miss Saigon is staged with such insistent extravagance that it bludgeons its way to success. Great art? Nope. But big theatre...Director Laurence Connor has plainly drilled his troops like a Viet-Cong sergeant-major. The big power scenes are as efficient as the opening ceremony of the Peking Olympics...With all the narrative clutter of the swanky staging and a fiddly-diddly score, the performers have little chance to establish themselves. But then comes Engineer's greedy, gaudy (and arguably ungenerous to immigrants) fantasy of emigrating to America. Mr Briones finally hits the mark with a delivery of acid satire. Liberty rises from the gubbins of the stage, in comes a gas-guzzling car, majorettes -- and the show finally has artistic lift-off, just like that whirlybird from the US embassy roof in Saigon in 1975. A close-run thing.
Christopher Clegg, Gay Times Magazine: This 18-year-old American actress, who was plucked from the states and has been dropped into the middle of one of what is undoubtedly the West End's biggest shows ever, has the emotional gravity of a Vanessa Redgrave or a Judi Dench, and with a singing voice so pure it cuts right to your soul. Noblezada breaks your heart and pulls you on this euphoric and heartbreaking ride. I could've happily watched her sing this score in a black box and been almost as satisfied as I was this evening. That said, the spectacle and cast surrounding Kim make the evening better and better, and when you think there's nothing left to give you are blown away by more, and more, and just to be safe... more.
Mark Shenton, The Stage: For those, like me, who saw that first production, it remains an indelible memory. Those that didn't see it won't, of course, know what they missed. But Nicholas Hytner's original staging, designed by John Napier, had focus, intensity and drive as well as scale. Now, as directed by Laurence Connor with a restless, relentless sense of bustling momentum, the show feels as if it passes in a busy blur. Even as you marvel at the sheer size of it all, it duly becomes a bit repetitive. And paradoxically, the emotional investment one is asked to make in it diminishes accordingly.
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: Laurence Connor's revival is visually rich. While Bob Avian reprises his choreography from the original show, there's a lavish new design by Totie Driver and Matt Kinley. Beautifully lit by Bruno Poet, it conveys the opulent sleaze of the Vietnam nightclubs and also creates moments of intimate ardour and panoramic horror.
Edward Seckerson, Arts Desk: The cleverness of the conception - and in this, the writers are truly one up on Puccini and his librettists - hinges on the critical three years separating the fall of Saigon and the establishment of Ho Chi Minh City. When the American marine Chris unexpectedly finds love in "DREAMLAND" - the Engineer's emporium for sex in the explosive heart of Saigon - his intentions towards the fragile and idealistic Kim are far more honorable than those of Pinkerton in Butterfly. it's the big "what if" at the heart of the show that really delivers the emotional punch as we flashback to the fateful night when the lovers are torn apart in the chaos of the fall of Saigon and the last helicopter departs from the roof of the Embassy.
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy