The heat is back on in Saigon! Boublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical has finally been helicoptered back in to the West End after a lengthy absence of fifteen years.Originally staged in 1989, Miss Saigon was their follow-up to the perennially popular Les Mis; the new show proved a hit and subsequent productions have been staged all over the world from Utrecht to New Zealand. Musicals have had a difficult time of it in the West End as of late, but pre-sales for Saigon have already broken box office records and show there’s still a strong appetite for epic tuners.
Saigon is based on Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, with the setting changed to the Vietnam War of the 1970s. Chris, a U.S. Marine sergeant, is stationed in Vietnam as the war is drawing to a close; he meets Kim, a bargirl at the seedy Dreamland club and they fall for each other even as Chris prepares to leave Vietnam to return to the States. The lovers are separated when the American embassy is evacuated, and Kim is left behind as Chris leaves in the last helicopter, not yet knowing that she’s carrying his child.
The production design is bold and immersive, taking us from Vietnam to the United States and back again through clubs, back streets, and embassies, and the set piece of the helicopter is incredibly well done, not disappointing at all in scale or impact.
…notable omission from the second act…
Changes have been made to both music and lyrics since the first production, with ‘Now That I’ve Seen Her’ being a notable omission from the second act. It has been replaced with the slightly ineffectual ‘Maybe’ that wasn’t really as good. I might just be overly attached to the original cast recording.
Here’s hoping they make an updated recording, however, as the new cast at the Prince Edward Theatre are absolutely excellent. Eva Noblezada, an eighteen-year-old unknown from America, has been cast as Kim in her professional debut and is continuing her high school studies whilst taking on the lead role in the show. Noblezada gives an incredibly moving and powerful performance, especially in the scenes where she has to defend her son from those who would harm him. Jon Jon Briones also steals the show as the Engineer, playing it up to the maximum in the big ‘American Dream’ number.
…not one to be missed…
This new, revamped Saigon is not one to be missed, even if I do wish they’d not messed about with one of the best songs in the score. Get down to the Prince Edward and get a ticket as soon as possible.