Fly high with Miss Saigon
This epic musical, now on at the Bristol Hippodrome, takes in Puccini’s Madam Butterfly and overlays it against the backdrop of the Vietnam war and the fall of Saigon. You know the plot already – boy meets girl, loses girl and finds her again – but with a tragic operatic twist. Muddy reviewer Ann Dix went to see the show….
Laurence Conner’s production is flawless. And Totie Driver and Matt Kinley’s inventive and dynamic stage sets give the wow factor. They spectacularly evoke the chaos of war – most of all in the iconic helicopter scene, in which crowds of pro-American Vietnamese desperately try to escape Saigon on the last helicopter. In the blink of an eye, the set artfully flips from troops keeping people out of the US embassy to would-be escapees desperately trying to scramble over the gates to freedom with the helicopter whirring at the ready. It’s one of those unforgettable theatre moments.
There’s genuine chemistry between the romantic leads, Sooha Kim (Kim) and Ashley Gilmour (Chris), but the most emotionally charged moment is the anguished confrontation between love rivals Kim and Elana Martin’s Ellen, and the heartbreaking dilemma this presents to Chris, caught between his wartime past and the new life he has shakily embraced.
Red Concepción’s Engineer, an outrageously crude and camp brothel owner who dreams of making it in America, provides the comic moments, strutting round the stage in his high heels and his bright purple suit, looking like everyone’s favourite Quality Street. His show stopping American Dream is a high point and has him performing unspeakable acts with a white Cadillac, draped with a fur clad glamour puss, who looked to me (and I might be mistaken) like a lady boy.
It’s hard to imagine anyone not enjoying this show – even my husband managed it. The packed auditorium and ecstatic audience shows Miss Saigon is still flying high – but make sure you leave the younger Muddies at home.
Words: Ann Dix
Photos: Johan Persson