Miss Saigon is an updated version of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and tells the love story of Kim, a young Vietnamese girl, and Chris, an American GI, in the final days before the fall of Saigon. It’s a sad story with characters that you grow to really care about (even the not so nice ones) - but it’s also set against a dramatic backdrop of war and terror, and is as gripping as it is emotional.
Written by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, the dream team who also brought us Les Mis, the music of Miss Saigon includes some of my favourite show tunes: The Movie In My Mind, Last Night of the World, I’d Give My Life For You, Bui Doi… And anyone who’s listened to the original soundtrack as often as I have will notice a few changes this time around - most notably in the addition of a new song, Maybe, which is sung by Ellen in Act 2.
Miss Saigon never fails to leave me in bits, and not only because of the sad events surrounding Kim and Chris. There’s a much deeper story to be told here, about the people and - most importantly - the children that were left to suffer in Vietnam. And while the opening number of Act 2, Bui Doi, is a little bit like watching a Comic Relief appeal, that doesn’t make it any less powerful, and it gets me every time.
In case anyone didn’t know about it yet, there’s a helicopter in Miss Saigon. An actual helicopter. On stage. Complete with throbbing sound effects that you can feel in your chest, and the wind from the propellers. It’s an incredible moment, particularly because it appears at one of the most intense points in the story, and is an absolute highlight, not just of this show but of any show.
I’ll be honest, I knew very little about the Vietnam War before I saw Miss Saigon, and while I’m not about to claim the story’s 100% historically accurate, or that it tells anything like the full story, watching the show got me interested in learning more. (And also helped me out with a pub quiz question about Ho Chi Minh. I don’t want to say that’s why we won, but I think it had a lot to do with it…)
Yes, you read that right. Most of the laughs are courtesy of the Engineer, a shady but oddly loveable character who’s willing to do anything - however dodgy - to achieve his American Dream. And it’s just as well he’s there, because with everything else that’s going on, we need a laugh or two.
This revival of Miss Saigon has boasted a stellar cast, from the experienced Jon Jon Briones as the Engineer, to the incredible Eva Noblezada, who got the part of Kim when she was just eighteen. Both actors will be reprising their roles when the show transfers to Broadway later this year. They’ve been joined along the way by Hugh Maynard, Alastair Brammer, Rachelle Ann Go, Tamsin Carroll, and many more fantastic performers who’ve helped bring the story to life.
What will YOU miss about Miss Saigon? And if you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for? Get in quick before it closes on 27th February.