Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Exquisitely Moving

Miss Saigon

Cameron Mackintosh , Wales Millennium Centre , December-05-17
Miss Saigon by Cameron Mackintosh There’s excitement in the air as soon as you enter the auditorium. We know there’s a helicopter in this show; the dramatic opening music and sound effects make us feel that a helicopter is going to land right in the middle of us before the show starts. Cameron Mackintosh’s mastery of stage-art continues throughout the whole show.

But there’s much more than this, this a powerful story of real people wrapped up in the throws of war. We certainly know it’s war the moment the show begins. American soldiers invade the stage, lights flash, bombs explode and rifles seem to be firing everywhere, a short but near terrifying moment. We are watching a huge stage with a very evocative set design conceived by the late Adrian Vaux, perfectly lit by Bruno Poet but with the heart-penetrating chords of Claude-Michel Schönberg take us into the lives of the people with a very strong sense of absolute realism. I have often left shows with broad smiles on my face but this time I was crying real tears from the moment that awful, final shot rang out right up until I got into my taxi; such was the overwhelming real child like innocent quality that Sooha Kim was able to wrap around her character.

She kept this beautiful innocent quality right up to the end despite the vagaries of wartime life that beset her. Her soldier/lover was equally real. As Chris, Ashley Gilmour moved like a panther around the stage. His singing like everyone in this totally captivating show was exciting and brilliant. His love and care for the innocent Kim was unquestionable. We felt his dilemma when he returned to America finding that Kim with their child had visited his wife, a part elegantly underplayed by Zoë Doano. Chris’ close friend, John does his best to help resolve a very difficult situation; if only there could have been a better way out. John, very strongly played by Ryan O’Gorman, his singing of the very poignant BUI DOI was one of the highlights of the show.

Outside of this impassioned tale with the Vietnam War drawing to its close ordinary life went on. Well not quite ordinary where the decadent Engineer is concerned, another gem of a performance of a loveable rogue from the dynamic Red Conceptión. The female members of the ensemble all very scantily clad were the inmates of his well-run brothel, where it all started. They took on many other guises in the course of the story and along with the ‘boys’, their dancing and choreography were a joy to watch. They controlled the enormous fire-breathing dragon that seemed to fill the whole stage, with aplomb.

Even more spectacular was the arrival of the ‘real’ helicopter. The troops boarded it and off it went.
But there was still a lot more to happen on the ground.

29 Nov 20017 - 6 Jan 2018

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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