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A CurtainUp London London Review
Miss Saigon

by Tim Sealey

What's that I smell in the air? The American dream. . .— The Engineer
Miss Saigon
Alistair Brammer as Chris and Eva Noblezada as Kim (Photo: Michael Le Poer Trench)
The heat is on in the Prince Edward Theatre as Miss Saigon opens after a fifteen-year hiatus. Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, who have also delighted millions with their words and music in Les Miserables, are the architects of Miss Saigon. It is a musical with a very loyal fan base, in love with the powerful lyrics and swooping but eclectic orchestral score and they have been waiting quite a long time for this revival. Yet, according to recent reports in the media, this Vietnam war love story has also found a place with young theatre goers who have subsequently helped produce record breaking box office results.

It is rare to be in a theatre with an audience that have seemingly decided on what they think of a show before the curtain has been raised. The Mackintosh machine has managed to create immense hype about the production and even I, whom this show has managed to pass by completely, was taken in by the sheer excitement of the evening.

From the opening number of the 'Heat Is On' we are instantly transported to 1970's Saigon by the breath taking set. Mouth aghast for most of the evening, one will be reminded of what British theatre can achieve in both scale and quality. Yes, this show will have a huge production budget and quite literally an army of a production team but regardless of what one thinks of the show itself, the persistent round of applause that will accompany every little moment on stage has been pretty well earned by cast and crew alike.

Jon Jon Briones sparkles as the Engineer, the compere and light relief to the proceedings. His main numbers 'If You Want To Die In Bed' and 'The American Dream' are both excruciatingly catchy but are some of the most grandly staged and amusing. Eva Noblezada is mesmeric as Kim, the tragic heroine who is left by her husband Chris (Alistair Brammer) when he is evacuated from the war. Noblezada's voice has a beautiful and heart breaking quality and out of the chaos we are treated to lingering moments of retrospection through songs like 'I'd Give My Life To You' and 'Little God Of My Heart'.

This is an epic production with even the famous helicopter making quite a jaw dropping appearance for the evacuation scene. Due to its enormity though we never really fully engage with the story and the characters and they all get a little dwarfed by the magnitude of the staging. The concept of Miss Saigon still manages to be relevant with the inevitable comparisons but although you may be blown into a state of astonishment by the spectacle, not much will cause a lasting effect on the soul.

Miss Saigon
Music by Claude-Michel Schonberg
Lyrics by Alain Boublil and Richard Maltby Jnr
Produced by Cameron Mackintosh
Directed by Laurence Connor
Designed by Totie Driver and Matt Kinley

Starring: Jon Jon Briones, Eva Noblezada, Alistair Brammer, Tamsin Carroll,
With: Natalie Chua, Jon-Scott Clark, Callum Francis, Ashley Gilmour, Julia Abueva, Dale Evans, Hugh Maynard, Kwang-Ho Hong, Rachelle Ann Go, Jenny Ding, Maria Graciano, Simon Hardwick, Matthew Jeans, Kurt Kansley, Ela Lisondra, Mitch Leow, Jack Harrison Cooper, Kittiphun Kittipakapom, David Kar-Hing Lee, Carolyn Maitland, Tanya Manalang, Thao Nguyen, Saori Oda, Christian Rey Marbella, Kanako Nakano, Ariel Reonal, Jon Reynolds, Niall Sheehy, Marsha Songcome, Thao Vilayvong, Amadeus Williams, Romeo Salazar, Jordan Shaw, Kerry Spark, Eloisa Amalia Tan, Gerald Zarcilla
Choreography: Bob Avian
Lighting: Bruno Poet
Musical Director: Alfonso Casado Trigo
Sound: Mick Potter
Running time: Two hours and 40 minutes with a 15-minute interval
Box Office: 0844 826 4242
Booking to 25thApril 2015
Reviewed by Tim Newns based on 22nd May 2014 production at the Prince Edward Theatre, Old Compton St,W1D 4HS

Musical Numbers
Act One
  • "Overture" / "Backstage Dreamland" - Gigi, Kim, The Engineer and Bar Girls
  • "The Heat is On in Saigon" - Soldiers, Bar Girls, The Engineer, Kim, John, Chris and Gigi
  • "The Movie in My Mind" - Gigi, Kim and Bar Girls
  • "The Transaction" - The Engineer, John, Soldiers, Chris and Kim
  • "The Dance" - Kim, Chris and The Engineer
  • "Why, God, Why?" - Chris
  • "This Money's Yours" - Chris and Kim
  • "Sun and Moon" - Kim and Chris
  • "The Telephone Song" - Chris and John
  • "The Deal" - The Engineer and Chris
  • "The Wedding Ceremony" - Gigi, Kim, Bar Girls and Chris
  • "Thuy's Arrival" - Thuy, Chris and Kim
  • "Last Night of the World" - Chris and Kim
  • "The Morning of the Dragon" - Soldiers, The Engineer, Two Guards and Thuy
  • "I Still Believe" - Kim and Ellen
  • "Back in Town" - The Engineer, Kim, Thuy and Soldiers
  • "Thuy's Death" / "You Will Not Touch Him" - Thuy and Kim
  • "This is the Hour" - Chorus
  • "If You Want to Die in Bed" - The Engineer
  • "Let Me See His Western Nose" - Kim and The Engineer
  • "I'd Give My Life for You" - Kim
Act Two
  • "Bui Doi" - John and Chorus
  • "The Revelation" - Chris, John and Ellen
  • "What a Waste" - The Engineer, Hustlers, Tourists, John and Kim
  • "Please" - John and Kim
  • "Chris is Here" - The Engineer, Kim, Club Owner and John
  • "Kim's Nightmare" - Thuy
  • "Fall of Saigon" - Soldiers, Chris, Kim, John and Citizens
  • "Sun and Moon" (Reprise) - Kim
  • "Room 317" - Kim and Ellen
  • "Now That I've Seen Her" - Ellen (Original production)
  • "Maybe" - Ellen (2011 Holland / 2014 London production)
  • "The Confrontation" - Chris, Ellen and John
  • "Paper Dragons" - The Engineer and Kim
  • "The American Dream" - The Engineer
  • "This is the Hour" (Reprise) - Kim
  • "Finale" - Chris and Kim
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