MISS SAIGON (musical)
Ends 27th February 2016.
CONTAINS LOUD NOISES, GUN SHOTS, SMOKE, FLASHING LIGHTS AND ADULT SCENES.
Vietnam. Chris gets given a bar girl from the Engineer's new stock. That night changes
everybody's lives forever.
The Schonberg, Maltby Jr hit 1980s musical is given a new and revised
(Seen at the performance on 24th February 2015). Some actors may now have
left the cast.
The monkey is strongly in favour (indeed has used a paw to stir arranging) of
“assisted” performances. The money of those who require signing, subtitles,
audio-description and relaxation of production and theatre etiquette is as good
as anyone else’s, their entitlement to enjoy a show totally equal. Reaching out
to new audiences is important, and the monkey was delighted to find that, in
“Miss Saigon,” Cameron Mackintosh had found a new minority group to assist – the
Well, it’s the only way the monkey can explain how every single feeling is first
spelled out in words, then carefully underlined with an entire song.
Actually, it’s possible that if this didn’t happen, the show would only run 15
minutes – but it likes its original theory better.
This trudge towards (not very moving) tragedy is at least given handsome set
(Adrian Vaux) and lighting (Bruno Poet). The helicopter sound-effects are
effective too, but it’s a shame Mick Potter couldn’t get the rest of the sound
out of the muddy puddle it falls into for much of the audience. On the plus
side, the story appears clearer, so hearing the words isn't as important -
lucky, as some wince-inducing lyrics have been acquired since the original
London outing; and Bob Avian manages to fill the stage with life as required.
Director Laurence Connor fares nearly as well, given the paucity of book and
need to emote everything. A few awful gaffs – would otherwise respectable ‘bar
girls’ pose like 2010s teenagers for photos? And if “Saigon Never Sleeps At
Night” how does it all go silent for a lovers’ duet? These are compensated for
with an hilarious “Mormon” storyline (watch the edges of the stage during the
‘Bangkok’ act 2 sequence).
It’s not enough to save the show, though, and nor is the cinematic (but not that
convincing) helicopter in an over-long flashback sequence. And whoever thought
that mounting a ghost on an elevator platform like a demented funfair ride needs
their ideologies examining.
A few of the cast seem up to the job. Ethan Le Phong’s Thuy overcomes his lift
ride to provide true menace. Christian Rey Marbella’s Engineer is superior to
the Jonathan Price version, with ferrety, hungry survival skills and less
actorly grease. For the ladies, both Rachelle Ann Go as Gigi and Tamsin Carroll
are entirely competent in their roles, both relishing and communicating their
solo numbers with aplomb.
Alistair Brammer can put over a show tune as Chris, but the monkey was concerned
that he wasn’t at all well at this performance. He appeared to be concentrating
hard, yet seemed sweaty and unable to co-ordinate singing, moving and handling
props simultaneously – a real mess of returning a gun to a holster, and later
moving around a bedroom. Not a criticism, a serious concern for a talented man’s
And then there’s Eva Noblezada, leading lady Kim. Very young, and can sing in
tune... but the monkey did see Lea Salonga... and it really wasn’t a contest. It
also blows a huge hole in the whole premise of the show. The jumping off point
is that of fulfilling selfish male fantasy. The soldiers are mesmerised, and
there must be no thought of returning to Dreamland customer services, pointing
out that the seal is still intact so they can get a refund. Noblezada as a
performer is not at fault here, it’s just that Jackson and Orange (casting
directors) might have given that aspect a bit more thought, perhaps. (see
Yvette, handled. No more in-jokes – editor).
For those who like their musicals both spectacular and vacuous, but with a
veneer of originality that a juke-box show can’t provide, this is the answer.
Musical theatre has moved on, though, and for fans of the genre, analysing this
show may well explain both how and why.