When "Miss Saigon" originally opened on Broadway in 1991, the show was a hit, but it caused controversy because it had a British actor playing an Asian role. A new revival that opens Thursday night at the Broadway Theatre sidesteps that issue, but is it worth seeing? Roma Torre filed the following review.
Just as we were sounding the death knell for the big spectacle on Broadway, along comes "Miss Saigon." Bucking the trend of re-staging famed mega-musicals in stripped-down revivals, the show's creative team brings back the sprawling splendor and, yes, the helicopter that fans of the 1989 musical came to know and love so well. But does it fly, you may ask? Oh yes, "Miss Saigon" soars to the rafters.
Inspired by the tragic opera Madame Butterfly, the famed songwriting team of Boublil and Schonberg set the musical during the final days of the Vietnam War as the U.S. was pulling out and the Saigon capital was falling.
Director Laurence Connor, behind the successful re-staging of Boublil and Schonberg's masterpiece Les Miz, has darkened the tone considerably. We see a war-torn Saigon dominated by flesh pedaling and later pageantry under Communist rule.
Kudos to the versatile production design and vivid lighting, fluidly shifting from intimate love scenes to the grandiose production numbers. Improved technology allows for an even more dazzling helicopter sequence.
Casting is key in this production, particularly the roles of Kim, the virginal orphan newly arrived in Saigon, and "The Engineer," a shrewdly cynical hustler who recruits her to work in his brothel.
The poignant story follows Kim and Chris, a Marine, who fall in love after one night together. They become separated in the chaos of Saigon's fall, and it's not till three years later that they re-connect.
Young Eva Noblezada, discovered while in high school, is quite a find with the instincts of a seasoned veteran and the vocal range to match.
With Alistair Brammer as Chris, the doomed lovers raise tragedy to epic proportions.
The sung-through musical echoes the lush melodies and themes from the composers' Les Miz score while peppering the narrative with politically satirical overtones.
It falls on the Engineer to finesse the social commentary and comic relief, which Jon Jon Briones pulls off brilliantly. His biggest number "The American Dream" can't resist poking fun at our current ruler.
This is a most worthy revival, and now, minus the controversy, fans are free to re-live the thrill.