Thirty three million people can’t be wrong! That’s how many have seen and loved Miss Saigon, and there will be more.
This new production made to fit theatres around Australia is an absolute tour de force. From the moment when the audience ducked because of the convincing sound of a helicopter about to scalp us, to the heart wrenching finale, the capacity audience in the Adelaide Festival Theatre was captivated.
The proven combination of Claude-Michel Schönberg (Composer) and Alain Boubil (lyricist) demonstrated in Les Miserables shines again in this passionate story of love and pain, tragedy and futility, avarice and ambition superbly portrayed in this Cameron Mackintosh production, beautifully directed by Laurence Connor.
It’s more than Madam Butterfly in Vietnam – it’s the theme of East meets West echoed from other musical theatre as well such as South Pacific and even The King and I, but with the intensity and desperation that is spawned by the horrors and the shambles of war, and in particular, the personal anguish and desperation that it brings. Clearly it is not only soldiers, politicians and governments that are devastated by war: its devastation spreads to innocent individuals who did not ask to be involved or even to be born.
The convincing chemistry between major protagonists Kim (Laurie Cadevida) and Chris (Stephen Mahy standing in for David Harris) demonstrated this very poignantly, with fine acting, and clear, accurate voices. They are amply supported by fabulous performances from Juan Jackson (Chris’s friend John), another fine and powerful tenor, and Leo Tavarro Valdez (The Engineer) full of sleaze, acquisitiveness and ambition.
Adrian Vaux’s sets impressively set the scene and the atmosphere for locations as distant as Saigon, Atlanta and Bangkok, and glide seamlessly around the capacious stage immediately creating a Saigon sin bin, or a Bangkok booze bar. In between the technical and artistic genius of this production, lighting and design team present the brassy glitz of the American Dream, complete with enormous yank tank car draped with Marilyns, a huge smoke-breathing Chinese dragon, a stunning sunset to disappear into, and clever animation on a screen above.
The piece de resistance of the line-up of special effects is the helicopter that corkscrews from the sky to evacuate the American Embassy at the denoument of this tragic war.
Whether opera or musical, this through-composed work is sumptuously conceived and presented. The choreography by Geoffrey Garratt is slick and imaginative, and the fine dancing and singing of the chorus excellently supports the tragically evolving scenario.
In the pit, the orchestra under Guy Simpson did the Schönberg score proud. This is one genre for which the Festival Theatre acoustic and sound system, properly managed are ideally suited. Although very loud at times, it was seldom inappropriate, with fine colour range, good instrumentation, and altogether a confident and intrinsic part of the whole event, effectively emphasising the emotional highs of the story and the performance.
Miss Saigon is an experience for theatre, musical and opera lovers alike not to be missed. Visually, musically, dramatically and technically spectacular, it joins the ranks of the great theatrical events that live in one’s memory. The count of its aficionados has certainly reached thirty three million and one, plus a Festival Theatre-full.
Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg and lyrics by Richard Maltby Jnr and Alain Boublil
Adapted from original French lyrics by Alain Boublil
Venue: Adelaide Festival Theatre
Dates: Tues - Sun, 29 Dec 2007 - 10 Feb 2008