Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg
Lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. and Alain Boublil
Directed by Robert Hastie and Anthony Lau
A daring, bold yet incredibly exciting recipe for musical theatre. Take an iconic piece world renowned and adored, make some bold changes compared to previous versions and take it off the traditional proscenium stage and place it an intimate thrust style. Robert Hastie and Anthony Laus’ gamble has paid off as they bring Miss Saigon back to the stage in a new production by special arrangement with Cameron Mackintosh.
With 30+ musical numbers it is no wonder that at times Schönberg and Boublil’s piece feels more like an opera, but the cast’s ensemble work is strong, driving the piece from city to city as we follow Kim’s journey, fleeing the Vietnam conflict. Jade Hackett's choreography is a treat and the company deliver the big numbers and transitions with great precision.
Ben Stones’ mostly minimal set leaves a bare stage, allowing a blank canvas for a combination of exquisite lighting and projection from Jessica Hung Han Yun and Andrzej Goulding respectively. Stones however vividly captures the contrast of between the dark and damp streets outside the bars of Saigon with the bright neon lights of Bangkok. The second act’s famed evacuation from the American embassy is a wonder to behold and a treat in itself.
That said, the biggest treat in the show comes from the duo that is Joanna Ampil as The Engineer and Jessica Lee as Kim. Ampil is no stranger to Miss Saigon but in this production brings a new take on The Engineer. Her rendition of The American Dream towards the end of Act 2 is a tragic celebration of what could have been, exposing all sides and shades of The Engineer in one number, a performance that would be a marathon for many but seemingly effortless for Ampil and immensely gripping. This new interpretation of The Engineer offers a whole new chemistry between her and Kim with some darker moments seeming all the more sinister in contrast, but with also occasional moments of surprising tenderness.
Lee gave a performance that reached every single corner of The Crucible. With an intensity that never wavered, vocal dexterity that never wobbled and a presence and sometimes vulnerability that was incredibly powerful to watch. Her rendition of ‘Id Give My Life For You’ at the end of Act 1 was faultless as was ‘I Still Believe’ where Lee was joined by Christian Maynard who plays Chris, the young American soldier along with Shanay Holmes who plays Ellen. A nod too to the sumptuous performance of the score from Chris Poon and the 15 piece orchestra.
War is sadly a tragedy that seems to rip through the hearts of so many and this production places us, the audience right in the thick of it. At a time when travel and London ticket prices make a trip to the West End simply unaffordable for many it’s incredibly encouraging that regional theatres such as The Crucible are able to offer such a landmark production as this to their audiences.
Runs until 19th August
Photo credit: Johan Persson