My latest London excursion was my second visit to see the legendary West End production of Miss Saigon, with my sister and a good friend who happens to be rather more musically astute than me. I had seen the show before, but that did not stop it being an absolute winner - I gasped in all the same places, had to fight back tears, and could not help getting the shivers whenever there was a key change.
Written by the creators of the infamous Les Misérables, Boublil and Schönberg’s, Miss Saigon is set in 1975, and later, 1978, and tells the story of an innocent Vietnamese bar girl and reluctant prostitute, Kim (Eva Noblezada) who falls in love with GI Chris (Chris Peluso). Entwined with the hilarious and highly energetic pimp and “businessman”, the Engineer (Jon Jon Briones), who longs for little but to get his hands on a US visa so he can finally live his American Dream.
The show debuted in the West End 26 years ago, and after its revival in recent years, has been a total success. With its incredible Communist parade scene (with geek-pleasing historical accuracy), and the “helicopter scene”, depicting the evacuation of the American embassy and the fall of Saigon, the scene was set (if you'll pardon the pun) for an absolutely fantastic performance. Even the opening scene set my heart racing, and that was before any of the characters even opened their mouths.
Now, do not hate me for this, but the soundtrack for Miss Saigon, at least for me, far and away tops Les Mis’ score. It has been a month now since I saw it, and I am still belting out the heartfelt solos and attempting to sing the multiple duets in the shower. The lyrics perfectly capture the pain and horror of the Vietnam War (“Do you want to hear how my village was burned? How my parents were bodies who faces were gone?”) and the desperation of clinging to shreds of hope. Abandoned by her GI, Kim produces many a heart-rending song throughout the show, and despite the ending being clear to an opera fan (Miss Saigon is based on Madame Butterfly), as well as having seen it before, it still left me in exactly the state I wanted – awestruck.
Playing in the Prince Edward Theatre, Miss Saigon takes its final flight on 27th February 2016, and I would urge everyone to go and see it before the opportunity disappears. It is an absolutely timeless performance, utterly captivating, and sung through, much like Les Mis, which drew me into it thoroughly. Unlike long-running West End shows, Miss Saigon has a keenness quite apart; a sense that every performance is one nearer to the end, and this makes it even more enthralling. Time is running out to go and see it, and one thing is certain: I will miss Saigon.
Original image by Alex Burgar.