Twelve years after it’s Australian premiere in Sydney, Cameron Mackintosh’s Miss Saigon has finally arrived in Melbourne. And it was worth the wait.
The original extravaganza was too big to stage in any theatre in Melbourne at the time and what we have now is a re-working, (not a scaled-down version Sir Cameron stresses) of the original. It may have been pared back but it is a stunning production of a moving story, relentless in its intensity.
Set during the dying days of occupied Saigon and the Vietnam war, it is essentially a tragic tale of love - a young and innocent Vietnamese girl falls in love with a handsome and sensitive American GI only to be cruelly separated by circumstances. The GI must later face the consequences of his actions in Saigon, and like the war itself, no one wins.
This production rarely puts a foot wrong. While the stage design may be less extravagant than the previous production, it is not spare and marries beautifully with Laurence Connor’s strong and effective direction. The sound design by System Sound guru Peter Grubb is a triumph. Visually this work is amazing, designed by Adrian Vaux and Gerald Scarfe. The arrival‚ of the helicopter in the second act is genius and literally rocks Her Maj to her foundations.
Without exception, this is an outstanding cast. From imports Laurie Cadevida and Leo Valdez to locals David Harris, Sophie Katinis, Christina Tan and RJ Rosales. These singers are passionate storytellers.
As Kim, Cadevida has a sweet, pure voice capable of knocking you back in your seat one moment and drawing you out of it the next. The actor takes us on a truly incredible journey on stage. She is a revelation. I'd Give My Life For You is intense and heart wrenching and her duet I Still Believe with Katinis sensitively highlights the complexity of these characters.
Katinis is excellent and succeeds in winning our sympathy, though our hearts are with Kim. Leo Valdez, a Phillipino star of stage and screen, relishes his role and captures beautifully the exploitative and cynical attitude needed to survive the horrors of his life.
David Harris is becoming Melbourne's newest leading male star. Earning his stripes with wonderful performances in The Full Monty and Thoroughly Modern Millie, he excels here as the angry and conflicted American GI. Harris handles the difficult and conflicted Chris with both charisma and boundless energy.
While vocally Miss Saigon is a joy, it is the quality of the acting that prevents the production from lapsing into melodrama both from principal and ensemble that wholly inhabit their characters.
Juan Jackson lends his operatic baritone to a simple and moving choral version of Bui Doi supported by a richly toned male ensemble.
Special mention must be made of the young actor playing Tam, which on Wednesday night was played by Adrian Le (on any given night the role can be played by one of eight children). He spends much of his time being grabbed, clutched and dragged around the stage and always remains present and stoic.
Guy Simpson once again excels in his leadership of a fine orchestra.
This production is of Miss Saigon is a triumph of style and substance and is not to be missed.
Cameron Mackintosh presents
Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg and lyrics by Richard Maltby Jnr and Alain Boublil
Adapted from original French lyrics by Alain Boublil
Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre
Dates: March 29 - July 15, 2007
Times: Tues – Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm, Wed 1pm, Sat 2pm
Bookings: Ticketek 1300 795 012