BWW Review: MISS SAIGON at the Eccles Theater is Filled with Pathos and Grit
The national tour of the Miss Saigon revival production, currently playing at the Eccles Theater, is filled with pathos, eye-popping spectacle, and gritty realism.
MISS SAIGON (music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. and Alain Boublil, additional lyrics by Michael Mahler) is a Tony-winning hit that was recently revived on the West End and Broadway. Both epic and intimate in scale, it follows a young Vietnamese girl named Kim who meets and falls in love with an American soldier at the end of the Vietnam War. When the Americans are evacuated from Saigon, she is left behind to pick up the pieces.
Emily Bautista plays a depth and range of emotions as Kim, turning on a dime from sweet innocence to steely determination to haunted yearning. Her exceptional vocals are pure and strong, and she carries the show on her capable shoulders.
Anthony Festa as Chris mines the motivations of the character for a believable interpretation of a passionate young soldier who is later confronted with his past. He has a strong, emotive singing voice that fills the room.
The ensemble is excellent both individually and as a unit with strong and versatile acting, singing, and dancing across the board.
The superb direction by Laurence Connor puts an emphasis on realism in both the staging and acting, which makes for an immersive experience in the post-Vietnam setting. It is paired with a detailed, realistic set by Totie Driver and Matt Kinley, based on an original concept by Adrian Vaux, that creates a gritty backdrop for the heightened score that is appropriately massive in scale (including the requisite helicopter, which does not disappoint). Adding to the impressive spectacle are the ravishing lighting by Bruno Poet and projections by Luke Halls, as well as the meticulous costume design by Andreane Neofitou.
At the reviewed performance, a few minor technical issues arose with the projections and timing of set movements. In addition, the sound balance may not have yet been fine-tuned for the venue, which could have contributed to occasional minor timing and intonation issues among the cast. But any problems that arose were rare, which is impressive for such a complex production.
It is uncommon for a touring show to be so rich in production values and talent. This version of Miss Saigon is unequivocally recommended both to newcomers and to long-time fans. This is especially a not-to-be-missed opportunity for those who've always wanted a chance to see the musical live.
MISS SAIGON plays the Eccles Theater for a limited engagement through Sunday, October 20, 2019. For tickets, call ArtTix at 801-355-ARTS (2787) or visit www.artsaltlake.org.