Cameron Mackintosh’s popular revival of Boublil and Schönberg’s beloved musical embarks on a nationwide tour in the UK, whilst also heading to Broadway and North America. Based on the Puccini opera ‘Madame Butterfly’ it is renowned for its emotional and intense storyline that pulls on the heartstrings of even the most stonehearted audience member.
It follows the story of Kim, the displaced Vietnamese girl running from the devastation the Vietnam war with America has brought on the countryside of her home village. She ends up in Saigon and is put to work in a bar run by The Engineer, who pimps out girls to American soldiers. On one of her first nights working the bar she is introduced to a GI named Chris and they fall in love. Sadly, this occurs just before the fall of Saigon and with the American army’s position becoming threatened by the approaching Vietnamese army, the Americans are forced to evacuate (in the infamous helicopter sequence). Kim is left behind and struggles for 3 years to deal with post-war Vietnam. In the second act it is revealed she has had a son by Chris and so by a strange twist of fate joins forces with The Engineer to embark on an incredibly tough journey to try and get to safety in Thailand and let the American meet his son.
The whole story is an emotional rollercoaster starting with an intensity that manages to build throughout the production. Drawing on real events that have haunted survivors of the Vietnam war in addition to some very honest and dark themes, the plot is memorable and moving. All of the characters have some relatable features although there was a lack of explanation surrounding some of the characters eventual fates. Others had an enjoyable character development arc such as Kim and the Engineer leaving the audience with firm favourites. Most disappointing was the character of Chris whose situation on return to America from Saigon was little investigated and his kind generous character of the first Act came across as weak, selfish and short-sighted. The music, which I’d never had the pleasure of coming across, was stunning. A veritable avalanche of emotion, pace and variety the score is just thrilling and utterly addictive. Although the main characters may have had only one theme tune apiece each song was perfectly suited to their personality and each song introduced a new event and continued to help the story on its way.
Red Concepción stole the show as The Engineer. An odious man in the first act I couldn’t help warming to him in the second act even those his core moral values were still as corrupted and despicable. His whole manner and enthusiasm lifted the whole show up, providing much needed comedic relief through the darker parts of the production. His performance of The American Dream allowed the character development reflected on before, providing the audience with an insight into his backstory, whilst giving the production an opportunity to splash on the visuals. Sooha Kim as Kim was enchanting, her purity and faith in love (Chris) shone throughout the show, breaking our hearts as we watched the injustices and dangerous situations she struggled through to try and get to her beloved. Her performance of You Will Not Touch Him, as she defended her son from Thuy (Gerald Santos) was a standout piece that was incredibly touching. The young boy playing Tam was utterly adorable and Sooha Kim made a real effort for the relationship to come across realistically.
An absolutely stunning touring production Miss Saigon is at the Festival Theatre until the 17th February and is an absolute must to attend in the Edinburgh theatre calendar.