Music: Claude-Michel Schönberg
Lyrics: Richard Maltby Jnr. &Alain Boublil
Book: Alain Boublil &Claude-Michel Schönberg
Director: Laurence Connor
Reviewer: John Roberts
Making a welcome return to London, 15 years after it finished its original record breaking run at Drury Lane, Miss Saigon has once again landed in the West End and has HIT written all over.
Director Laurence Connor, the mastermind behind the Phantom and Les Mis 25th Anniversary productions, re-visits his touring production from 2002 as the basis of this new staging and it works a charm. The production is filled to the brim with energy and action (time to play spot the gay Mormon) with so much happening it’s hard to absorb it all in one visit, clearly making this a Miss Saigon for the filmic generation.
Elements from past productions have stayed-in though. Bob Avian’s choreograpy and musical staging is still as impactfulas ever and the muted palate with flashes of colour from Andreane Neoofitou’s costume designs are a delight. A slightly updated set design from Totie Driver and Mat Kinley bring the world of war-torn Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City vividly to life but really comes into its own when the bright lights on Bangkok get turned on, it’s also great to see an actual physical helicopter once again. Bruno Poet is on spectacular form with a stunning lighting design, that is textured and layered engulfing the space and set design with a rapid fluidity and sharpness that is rarely seen with such finesse in musical theatre.
The biggest change in the production comes with the removal of Ellen’s song “Now That I’ve Seen Her” and replaced with “Maybe” – a song that now puts Ellen (played with depth from Australian Tamsin Carroll) into the heart of the story instead of merely being a plot device to hang the final moments of Kim’s tragic life upon. One can see the reason for its inclusion however it just doesn’t stand-up musically to the rest of the production.
This is overall a small price to pay to something that is as well constructed and beautifully realized and delivered as this revival is. The cast are on form with Jon Jon Briones striking all the right chords as The Engineer, he is sleazy yet magnetic and instantly likeable and hits every comic moment with aplomb. Relative newcomer Alistair Brammer cuts a crisp and strong Chris and the emotional journey portrayed is powerful. Hugh Maynard reprises the rôle he played in the original UK tour as charity worker John – his rendition of ‘Bui Doi’ pulling on every emotional heartstring possible. Strong support also comes from Kwanh-Ho Hong as Thuy and Rachelle Ann Go as call girl Gigi.
But the weight of the show is really put upon the small shoulders of Eva Noblezada as Kim, and my word those shoulders are firm and strong – this 18year old newcomer holds her own and soars with a deliciously naïve vocal that just haunts you with its tender delicacy one moment and powerful angst the next. Mackintosh has clearly done with Noblezada as he did 25years ago with Lea Salonga and found a rare talent that needs to be cherished and looked after.
William David Brohn’s orchestrations round off the evening with a loving embrace, beautifully arranged and played with heart and precision from a stunning 16 piece orchestra under the expert baton of Alfonso Casado Trigo.
Miss Saigon is an emotional roller-coaster, full of laughter and sadness, light and dark and soaring musical numbers that never fails to make an impact – make sure you book your tickets now,
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy | Reviewed on 22nd May 2014 – Currently on an open-ended run.