Since opening at the West End’s Drury Lane back in 1989, Sir Cameron Macintosh’s production of Miss Saigon has been wowing audiences all across the world and has picked up over 70 awards in the process.
A few years ago the long running musical had a revamp as part of its 25th Anniversary and now the new incarnation is touring the UK and Ireland, stopping at Manchester’s Palace Theatre for an 8 week run.
The current changes have made Miss Saigon fresher, punchier and more passionate than ever before – with a heavy injection of raunch and a number of scenes so slick in delivery you are in awe just watching them.
Set during the last days of the Vietnam War the musical love story follows 17-year-old Kim (Sooha Kim), who finds herself working at a notorious bar selling her body to survive. When American GI Chris (Ashley Gilmour) sets his eyes on her the attraction is instant but time is not on their side and they find themselves torn apart with heart-breaking repercussions.
Sooha Kim is a shining star, bringing a real innocence to the lead role of Kim with a natural purity in both her acting and vocals. Sooha effortlessly captures the child-like naivety of the character at the start and is utterly convincing later on in her steely desperation as she spirals into decline.
Playing her love interest Chris is Ashley Gilmour who puts in an assured performance as the infatuated GI, excelling with his fired up rendition of ‘Why God Why?’ Gilmour’s onstage connection with Kim is totally believable and the pairing produces so much sexual chemistry it leaves the audience hot under the collar on more than one occasion.
The production is epic in both its story and its scale with a cast of 38, orchestra of 15 and a technical team of 32 who bring the show to life 8 times a week. One of the stand out performances in Miss Saigon comes from Red Concepcion as the cunning and charismatic Engineer. Red manages to get just the right balance of the bar hustlers sleazy menace and mischievous ambition which is perfectly on display in his show-stopping solo ‘American Dream’.
There’s a plethora of memorable musical numbers throughout Miss Saigon conceived by the talented duo, Boublil and Schonberg. The geniuses behind the successful Les Miserables, have created a mixture of poignant ballads such as ‘The Movie in my Mind’ and ‘The Last Night of the World’ along with thought provoking melodies like ‘Bui Doi’.
Elsewhere Laurence Connor has done a sterling job with this production and it’s worth the ticket price alone for witnessing his tight direction of The Fall of Saigon, where a life size helicopter lands on the stage. In one of the most dramatic scenes of the show Connor expertly manoeuvres his huge ensemble, set and scenery backwards and forwards to produce the frantic atmosphere of the plight to flee the city.
If you are one of the lucky ones to catch Miss Saigon whilst it is in Manchester, you are in for one hell of a ride. This powerful musical will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions and leave you reaching for the tissues before the curtain falls. A winning production!
Runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until 12th May