In the eyes of many music theatre lovers, Miss Saigon is considered one of the “Big Three” blockbuster productions alongside Phantom Of The Opera and Les Miserables, and it certainly lived up to expectations when its Melbourne season opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre last week.
Cameron Mackintosh’s hit musical premiered on London’s West End in 1989 and had its Australian premiere at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre in 1995, because no theatre in Melbourne had a stage big enough for its iconic helicopter scene marking the fall of Saigon during the final days of the Vietnam War. It was reworked for Melbourne’s 2007 season – also at Her Majesty’s Theatre – and the current Australian touring production has undergone further refinements.
Miss Saigon is presented by Opera Australia, ensuring that the production is lavish, the staging is dramatic and the large cast of 42 is featured in many scenes, especially in the Broadway-style numbers involving fine choreography. However, it is the quality acting and singing from the musical’s lead performers that shine throughout the production.
Filipino-Australian Seann Miley Moore stars in the key role of The Engineer, the pimp in charge of a Saigon sex bar frequented by American GIs, with a larger-than-life performance. Sydney-born Filipino-Australian Abigail Adriano, 19, makes her professional lead role debut as Kim, a young Vietnamese orphan who meets and falls in love with American soldier Chris (Nigel Huckle) in the seedy Saigon bar.
Kim and Chris’s brief love affair is halted by the fall of Saigon and the evacuation of US troops. For three years Kim manages to survive in Ho Chi Minh City under the communist regime.
The Engineer reinvents himself as a Bangkok nightclub hustler while dreaming of a new life in America, culminating in the show-stopping number The American Dream. The staging, lighting and digital special effects are a highlight of Miss Saigon, especially when the helicopter takes off from the US embassy compound and the scenes of Asian street life.
This revised production highlights the post-traumatic stress suffered by Vietnam veterans and the plight of families forced apart by conflict and war. Miss Saigon has plenty of powerful songs, thanks to the production’s original French Jewish composers, Claude-Michel Schonberg (music) and Alain Boublil (lyrics). Among the hits are The Heat is On in Saigon, The Movie in My Mind and Last Night of the World.
Miss Saigon is at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne until December 16 before opening in Adelaide on January 2. Bookings: miss-saigon.com.au.