Compelling, heartbreaking and still relevant today, Miss Saigon is a brilliant production that is unafraid to strike the audience in the heart.
Set during the Vietnam War, this is a love story between an American marine and young Vietnamese girl which spans across the conflict as they are thrust together for a few brief hours before being ripped apart – an affair that impacts both of their futures in a tragic fashion. Despite a clumsy script this is a show that can definitely get a reaction.
Traditionally a debut performance for any actress who takes to the title role of Kim, Sooha Kim’s first performance in Britain is stunning. Her balance between the gentleness and innocence of Kim at the start, and her power and fury towards the end is admirable with a composure that never cracks. Added to this, the chemistry between her and her leading man, Chris (Ashley Gilmour), embodies the raw, sexual infatuation which comes with the loving infatuation of a relationship.
Ryan O’Gorman is utterly brilliant as John, Chris’ friend, with an enthusiastic personality that is chipped at as time passes. His vocals stands out from the rest of the performers, never wavering. His rendition of ‘Bui Doi’ holds a power and control that perhaps is lacking in the voices of the other leads.
However, the strength of this production lies in the talent and confidence of the ensemble whose performance of ‘The Morning of the Dragon’ – used as a representation of the reunification of Vietnam – is a well oiled machine with even the acrobatics performed in sync. Their constant, energetic movement as passers by in the streets of Bangkok and Saigon is integral in the detailed creation of the cities’ streets during the performance with constant characterisation.
Red Concepción performs the role of The Engineer – the owner of a Saigon brothel – with flamboyance though, during the first act, often lacking the grit and hunger needed to show the desperation of those struggling to seek out the American dream. This grit does return during ‘The American Dream’ number in the second act however it does not quite make up for the flat energy of act one.
As is expected, the set and tech for the show are striking with each military scene filled with firecrackers, strobes and sound moving across the auditorium to depict the flight of helicopters over the city. Each detail is clearly thought out to convey the heat and chaos of the world this production is set in. The costumes are detailed to the point where the suits of the American marines are flared with large collars giving a nod to the style of the 70s.
Miss Saigon may be set decades before, this is a show that still rings true today in its discussion of how the tragedy of war continues long after the conflict ends – not simply in a romantic setting but for all individuals. Despite some lacking vocals and a slip in energy, this is a brilliant show that is most certainly worth a see (though take tissues)!
Runs until 17th February
Photo Credit: Johan Persson