Theatre Review: Miss Saigon

Miss Saigon is an epic musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, the same writers as Les Miserables. An adaptation of Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, it similarly tells the tragic tale of a doomed romance involving an Asian woman abandoned by her American GI lover in the Vietnam War.

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Presented by The Metropolitan Musical Theatre Company of SA (aka The Met)

Reviewed09 May 2019

Miss Saigon is an epic musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, the same writers as Les Miserables. An adaptation of Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, it similarly tells the tragic tale of a doomed romance involving an Asian woman abandoned by her American GI lover in the Vietnam War. The GI, Chris, Jared Frost, and a destitute Vietnamese orphan Kim, Elana Amano, meet when she is working her first night as a prostitute and fall in love. When the city falls, the lovers are forced apart. Years later, Chris returns to Vietnam, and brings with him an American wife.  Kim, has waited for Chris, and raised their son, Tam, and must decide how to move forward.

The vocal and acting requirements of Miss Saigon make it a challenging piece for any community theatre company but especially one in Adelaide, where the theatre scene has traditionally been less culturally diverse than in some cities. The Met, under the guidance of director Ben Saunders, have embraced the challenge and delivered in many aspects. Frost has a fine voice and copes well with the range of powerful ballads although I would like to see more emotional delivery of the material to really bring out the gut-wrenching anguish of his character.  Amano, in contrast, is a little inconsistent in some of her vocals but portrays Kim with a strength and underlying vulnerability, that belies her lack of experience.

There are some stellar performances from the supporting leads. Omkar Nagesh steals the show as the shady, opportunistic ‘Engineer,’ a Eurasian pimp, interchanging between the menacing overbearing bully and delightful moments of, much needed, comic relief. Tom Dubois as John combines his strong baritone voice with authentic and natural acting. His powerful rendition of Bui Doi, with the male ensemble, is a highlight.  Jemma McCulloch as Ellen is also a scene stealer with her vast experience clearly evident.

Musical Director Jillian Gulliver and choreographer Selena Britz ensure ensemble numbers are tight and entertaining and mostly within the capabilities of the cast. Kudos to the production team for capturing the atmosphere of the tawdry night life without turning it into an uncomfortable spectacle.

Set and costumes are well supported by colourful projections and the helicopter scene is stirring and atmospheric. Another show highlight.

This is a good production, but the musical itself leaves me wanting. There are plenty of ballads, not quite the anthems of ‘Les Mis’ but full of yearning and the big belt changes one expects. However, it never quite reaches a pinnacle and sometimes positively limps along, particularly in the first act.  The second act rouses the audience and is far more entertaining, finishing with a predictable and inevitable but no less satisfying conclusion.

Reviewed by Trish Francis

Venue Arts Theatre

Season May 9th – 18th

Duration 150 mins with interval

Tickets $29/$35

Bookings: Online and Group Bookings: www.metmusicals.com.au – Service Fees Apply
Phone Bookings: Carolyn Mesecke – 0407 457 821 – Service Fees Apply

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