Happy Birthday, MISS SAIGON!
Miss Saigon. A classic and classy musical. So, imagine my delight to be invited to attend the 25th Anniversary Gala? Why, thank you very much - I'd be honoured!
I saw Miss Saigon at Drury Lane when I was still at school and the memory of such an epic show has stayed with me ever since. In fact, I was amazed to still remember the score and lyrics pretty much verbatim because they made such a lasting impression on me: a mean feat as I can't remember lyrics from auditions I did last week anymore.
Its reincarnation at The Prince Edward Theatre did not disappoint. The sweeping score was still as lush and rich as I remembered and the staging, lighting and sound was truly breathtaking in every way. And of course, the thundering entrance of the legendary helicopter received one of the biggest cheers of the night. The audience were like a tightly coiled spring from the off-set and we couldn't have whooped or cheered any louder if we'd tried, supporting the ridiculously talented cast and orchestra that performed for us. It was also a lovely touch to have a commemorative programme left on every seat when we entered with details of the original cast and information about the after-show 'show'.
I would highly recommend seeing this wonderful production and all those who have seen it before should definitely revisit it again.
As the show drew to an end, the Engineer stepped forward to stop the applause (not an easy task) and to tell us to all sit back in our seats and relax with a glass of champagne (with compliments from Cameron Mackintosh) as they prepared for the commemorative section of the evening's spectacle. For the duration of the show, there had been bags with champagne flutes waiting for this moment at the end of each row of seats. We handed them out and ushers magically appeared as if from nowhere with bottles - and bubbles flowed to everyone's delight...especially mine!
The curtain rose to an empty stage and a lone figure wearing a coolie hat. As she raised her head, the audience self-combusted in rapturous applause as Lea Salonga, the original Kim, stood before us on the stage. She spoke and sang with joy soaking every heartfelt word and, backed by members from the show over the last twenty-five years, it was a sight to behold. (I bumped into Graham Macduff in the interval and he informed me that he was given his original costume to wear from over twenty years ago. And what's more, it still fitted him! Graham - you looked splendid.)
The show was beautifully crafted with the originals seamlessly working with the present day cast, with the two "Kims" swapping to sing with their counterpart "Chrises". Lea singing The Movie in my mind with the present Gigi (Rachelle Ann Go) was jaw-droppingly good. The audience's ecstatic reaction to the entrance of Jonathan Pryce almost stopped the show when he emerged on a rickshaw for The American Dream and his performance was wonderful to boot. As casts from over the years poured onto the stage to perform the number, the car came out with Cameron and the composers beaming proudly sitting inside. Speeches followed as well as a rendition of "Happy Birthday" and the evening went off with a bang with ticker tape and golden confetti galore.
On a personal note, watching the show and seeing the original cast take their bows with the new was a really special moment for me: I was part of the 21st Birthday and last night of Cats at The New London Theatre and it made me very proud to be part of a musical theatre family. It's always been a personal dream to originate a role that goes on to be played by many, only to step back and join them on a stage to celebrate the show's success years later. It's still on the career tick-list. Fingers crossed it happens soon....