Miss Saigon is a story of love, separation, betrayal and sacrifice. It is set primarily in Saigon during the time of the Vietnam War in the 1970s. The story begins in a strip club owned by the Engineer and visited by American servicemen. Chris, an American soldier, tries to help Kim, a young girl who has just been forced to work there, when she is being mistreated by the club owner and taunted by the other girls, and ends up in her bedroom. They fall in love and marry and there is a very poignant wedding scene.
The story then shifts on three years to where Kim is living on the streets, in what is now Ho Chi Minh City, when it is revealed that she and Chris have a son. Thuy, a powerful officer in the North Vietnam Army (played by Sangwoong Jo – Les Miserables, Wicked, The Lion King) and the man Kim was to marry before she ran away, demands that the Engineer find her for him. Seeing Tam, her son by another man, Thuy is heartbroken and is about to stab him to death, but Kim shoots him dead in order to save her son.
Chris, now back in Atlanta and married to a fellow American, Ellen, finds out about his son and goes to Bangkok to meet Tam and Kim. Kim visits his wife and begs her to take Tam so that he can have the better life that she wants for him, but Ellen refuses, and the story ends with Kim killing herself, seeing it as the only way to make Chris and Ellen take him so that her son can grow up in America where he can have a better life – an opportunity that she herself never had.
It is a tale of a doomed romance, with Kim being abandoned by her American lover, in a time when marriages were seen as lifelong commitments by Eastern women but easily then put aside by Western men on their return home. It is the tragic story of innocent women and children during times of war – sadly, still as relevant today as it was then.
Miss Saigon is an adaptation of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. This production was a revival of the 1989 London production which closed in 1999. It was created by Claude-Michel Schönberg with Alain Boublil and Richard Maltby Jr.
Kim is played by Eva Noblezada who makes her professional debut in this production. Her vocal performance is outstanding, delivering an emotional performance of ‘I’d Give My Life For You’ and harmonising beautifully with Chris Peluso in ‘The Last Night of the World’.
Chris is played by Chris Peluso (Beautiful, Mamma Mia, Assassins). His performance of ‘Why God Why?’ was incredible, conveying his confusion about his feelings and experiences.
Jon Jon Briones (Les Miserables, Into The Woods, Little Shop of Horrors) plays The Engineer who owns ‘Dreamland’, the strip club in Saigon. He plays a wonderfully funny, sleazy yet endearing Engineer singing ‘If You Want To Die In Bed’ and ‘The American Dream’.
John, another American soldier who was based in Vietnam, is played by Hugh Maynard (Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King, Follies). His performance of ‘Bui Doi’ about the children who were the result of liaisons between Vietnamese girls, often prostitutes, and American servicemen, is highly emotive, with his and the other American ex-soldiers’ desire to help the children of Vietnam jarring with their behaviour when they were in Saigon, a reflection of the guilt and shame felt in American society at the time, and the clash of cultures between East and West.
Ellen, Chris’ American wife, is played by Siobhan Dillon (Cabaret, Ghost, Grease). She sings ‘Maybe’, a song about her doubts of Chris’ love for her as he hasn’t been totally honest with her about events in Saigon. The duet between her and Kim, ‘Room 317’ is incredible and emotional as Kim finds out Chris has remarried. Dillon has an outstanding voice with immense power.
A standout number of the show is ‘The Movie in My Mind’ which is sung by Gigi (played by Natalie Mendoza (Cats, Les Miserables, The Importance of Being Earnest) and Kim.
The most famous and incredibly breath-taking moment of the show is ‘Kim’s Nightmare,’ set at the time of the fall of Vietnam, where a helicopter is flown over the stage as Chris desperately tries to find Kim to take her out of Saigon and back to America with him but fails. The helicopter’s flight is a heart-pounding moment and leaves the audience awestruck – and Kim to then wake to her reality.
Miss Saigon will take its final flight on 26th February at the Prince Edward Theatre. It is set to open on Broadway for a limited run in spring 2017 before embarking on a North American tour in 2018. Eva Noblezada and Jon Jon Briones will continue their roles in the Broadway run.