Miss Saigon at the Prince Edward Theatre
Based upon Puccini’s’ opera Madame Butterfly, set in the Vietnam war and its aftermath, Miss Saigon is the classic unhappy love story of lives torn apart by conflict and a clash of cultures. After a gap of more than a decade from its previous long run, this revival returns this musical to the West End. The production brings a new song, an impressive array of sets, and the debut of a new star of musical theatre – Eva Noblezada in the central role as Kim.
There is a significant section of the audience who already know and love Miss Saigon, and who come prepared with hankies. It’s an unusual experience to see the audience emote so much, and actual sobbing is audible between songs. Some folk just love a good cry.
Individual performances are assured, the stand-out voice being 18-year-old discovery Noblezada with her heart-rending intensity. There are a stream of drawn out songs about love and longing, especially towards the beginning, all with a part that needs to be belted out by the singers, however the diction in the ensemble pieces gets a bit lost in the sound system.
There is not much humour early on, but audiences love to laugh, so when lighter numbers do come along they are given a great response. The second half is funnier, livelier and has two of the best scenes – one the traumatic closing of the gate and departure of the helicopter, and the other the full blown American Dream with a Cadillac onstage, shiny dancing boys and girls, and a classic fur coat and underwear scenario. Another main role is the Engineer, an unlikely antihero, a pimp we end up rooting for. Played by Jon Jon Briones, the role provides energy and somewhat humanises the seedy core of the show: paid-for sex from girls who have no choice. There is adult content and sexy nightclub scenes – if you find people in tiny bikinis writhing and gyrating sexy.
It’s an elaborate production of an unlikely setting for a musical, where a GI falls for a young Vietnamese girl and saves her from a life of prostitution. Can their love survive the fate they are dealt, and can they both keep their faith in love?
Photos: Michael Le Poer Trench
Miss Saigon is at the Prince Edward Theatre from 21st May 2014. For further information or to book visit the show’s website here.