Miss Saigon Theatre 11, Zurich
30/11/2018 by Mary Collins
Presented by Cameron Mackintosh, a musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, with lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr. and played in its original "English" form, The critically acclaimed theatre performance has been running since 1989.
The setting of the story is of 1970s Saigon during the Vietnam War, and is based on Giacomo Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly and inspired by a photograph, Schönberg found, showing "a Vietnamese mother leaving her child at a departure gate at Tan Son Nhut Air Base to board an airplane headed for the United States where the child's father, an ex-GI, would be in a position to provide a much better life for the child." Schönberg considered this mother's actions for her child to be "The Ultimate Sacrifice," an idea central to the plot of Miss Saigon" *Wiki
The opening scene is a smorgasbord of bright and shocking sights as it starts effectively, into the scene of a young girl "Kim" being hustled by "The Engineer" straight into work as a "Bar girl' in the Neon lite, seedy, entertainment, of a Saigon bar and brothel named "Dreamland".
Once you get over the very flashy costumes and raw sexuality of the moment, the words of the songs sink in. This girl is being prepared for the “job” and through the mocking of the more "experienced" gals and "Lady Boys" there is a beautifully aligned comparison and relation identity between the dreamers, Gigi Van Tranh and Kim, both ultimately victims of circumstance.
During the first act you meet American soldiers John Thomas and Chris Scott, both who appear to have different opinions about the Brothel . Ultimately, Chris meets Kim and the two begin their whirlwind relationship, leading to Chris wanting to take Kim back with him to America
The songs of love, surprise, hurt and betrayal are passionately expressed and regardless of your seat in the theatre, the music, colours, set and overall performances are spectacular and appear heartfelt and genuine.
There is a variety of ups and downs, and humour is thoroughly brought to life by the rogue character of "The Engineer". He is truly an opportunist and a survivalist who takes fortuity where he finds it. You may consider him as having both detestable as well as relatable characteristics, especially when using a Darwinian expression "survival of the fittest". He dreams as much as any of the main characters, of a better life, but certainly a different view than what someone like Kim would consider as “better”. His presence is larger than life, with a powerful voice to match and as despicable as his personality seems, one cannot help but enjoy his character as is acted out by the talented Leo Tavarro Valdez.
Kim, also survives her dismal circumstances but in a completely endearing way, through the idealism of hope she finds faith, commitment and determination to keep her strong. The actress Sooha Kim that plays this character, has a very whimsical Disney Princess style voice, that becomes less sweet and more powerful as the play progresses. Her scenes with her lover G.I soldier Chris (played by Ashley Gilmore), takes one’s breath away with the romance of their on-stage passion and her devoted love as a mother, and protector of her little child, brings tears with every loving embrace. You can feel her excitement, her sadness, her utter desperation and despair through her acting and remarkable vocals. Sooha Kim relates to the audience and character in the most human ways, to dream, hope, love, protect and even sacrifice oneself for those dreams, hopes and love.
The Performance is full of strong characters, (Ryan O'Gorman, Gerald Santos, Aicelle Santos, Elana Martin, +) each in their own way, shining in the moment, their parts and input bringing clarity and comparison to the characters situations and ultimately, the plot.
The dancers and chorus are the backbone of the show with a well-rehearsed overlaying of tones and timing and perfect choreography maintained in a dazzling and very technical set. When you go to see Miss Saigon you are not only paying to be entertained with a fantastic script, plot, story, and actors, you are getting the extra benefits of fantastic costumes, and sets that are genius in manipulation and use. The lighting and sound crew are also responsible for this, and make the difference between a good show and an outstanding, kind of show.
With every low, high, mad and sad point the play in itself, would have had less pull on the heart, or dramatic exhale If the orchestra hadn’t played so exquisitely. Miss Saigon tells of a time when political decisions changed people’s lives irrevocably, a story that could very well be used to describe many points in history and include the times we live in now.
Both thumbs up and all five stars!
Kim – Sooha Kim (Alternate Kim- Joreen Bautista) Christopher "Chris" Scott – Ashley Gilmore The Engineer, a.k.a. Tran Van Dinh -Leo Tavarro Valdez (alternate – Christian Ray Marbella)Ellen – Elana Martin . John Thomas –Ryan O GormanThuy – Gerald SantosGigi Van Tranh – Aicelle SantosTam – Nicolas Edsaen Clerc Further Cast & Crew Information HerePhoto Credits;Johan Perrson- (Kim and dying soldier)Johan Perrson- (The Engineer & Company)Johan Perrson- (Saigon Lovers)Johan Persson (Helicopter Scene)Johan Persson (Chris & Company) .