BWW Review: MISS SAIGON is More Than Spectacle - But It Helps
It's probably been quite a while since you've seen Miss Saigon...but if you have, you'll likely recall its extravagant moments most. The vibrantly large sets, huge ensemble numbers and, of course, the legendary helicopter.
Yet behind those lavish distractions still lies a deep heartfelt story of lost love. Based on the Puccini opera Madame Butterfly, the story takes place in the last days of the Vietnam War, where an American GI, Chris, falls for a 17-year-old bargirl Kim, but he must leave her behind when fleeing the country. For 3 years, Kim tries to make her way back to Chris, taking along the son he didn't know he fathered.
Miss Saigon was the second major success for Les Miserables collaborators Claude-Michel Schönberg (music) and Alan Boubil (lyrics) with additional lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr.
The original productions on both the West End and Broadway had healthy decade-long runs, and since have been revived. The current tour is based on the most recent Broadway revival.
While this was my first time experiencing a large professional production of Miss Saigon, I did see the filmed version of the Broadway revival, so I knew what to expect. It's just as epic as you want it to be. The set fills the Buell stage more than most productions, enhanced by a stunning lighting design and a booming orchestra.
Substantial set pieces like a gold Ho Chi Mihn and a Statue of Liberty head, along with a real car, truly bring the production to another level. While I was unable to experience the helicopter due to a technical issue, I wasn't completely disappointed in the projection use to replace it. (Although, I was pretty bummed to not see the iconic helicopter in action.)
Even though Miss Saigon's writing stands well on its own, there are a few lines I still find a bit cringeworthy.
But it's the performances that really give Saigon what it needs. Red Concepcion plays the ostentatious engineer with a charismatic sleaze that'll pull you right in. Emily Bautista's Kim grows the role from a modest innocence to a strong, capable woman. Anthony Festa's Chris is complex and emotionally developed. There are great features from J. Daughty as John, Jinwoo Jung and Thuy and Stacie Bono as Ellen.
If you've never seen Miss Saigon, this is the production you need to see. It'll draw you in the its tech elements, then break your heart with the story.
Miss Saigon plays the Buell Theatre through Sept 22. Tickets at DenverCenter.org.
Photos by Matthew Murphy