Miss Saigon - 21 June 2003, Birmingham

18 months on and I made a return to visit to Saigon and it is still as powerful and emotional as ever. There are not many other shows which can reach the same heightened emotional state and in the ‘This is the Hour’ and ‘Hotel Bedroom’ sequences the tension in the air not only fills the stage but the auditorium as well.

Leo Valdez remains in residence as the Engineer and having seen his Engineer 5 times now I find his performance one I continually enjoy. He seems to naturally become the role and performs the role with such energy and strength.

Jacqui Sanchez’s Kim has more strength than initial vulnerability is the opening scene seemingly more resolved to the situation than a country girl lost. She was a very good Kim and in the ‘This is the Hour’ and ‘Hotel’ sequences she excelled in bringing over the emotion and passion of Kim. One very touching moment was during the final scene as she said her good byes to Tam he gently brushed her hair back over her shoulder. It came across as a very natural reaction of the child playing Tam and this added such a poignancy to the scene. As the Engineer came in he literally pulled Tam from Kim’s embrace to take him to Chris and at this point Kim ‘s world ended as she slumped nearer to the floor as her final reason for living had gone.

Luke Evan’s ‘Why God, Why ?’ is one of the best renditions I have heard in a long time. He was excellent creating the turmoil that Chris, at what is an early age, has to face which is a great deal of emotion and trajedy. This is the first time I have seen the show with an Ellen who is also Asian, therefore adding another perspective to the final showdown between Kim and Ellen. Although there is no question of the love between Chris and Ellen , Ellen confronts him with in actions as well as words with the question ‘You loved her, am I just a replacement’. Cornelia Luna’s Ellen is one of the strongest I have seen, with a lovely strong voice and the confrontation in the hotel room with Kim is electric. During the final scene as Kim dies it is Ellen’s distress and crying that can be heard as she opens her arms to Tam.

Thuy is a man with many sides to his character changing at an instant from caring to violent, although his violent out bursts are at his frustration at being thwarted by not only his enemy but also a child. Robert Vincencio was excellent as Thuy bringing out all these characteristics when both living and dead !

Greg Canestrari was good as John and performed a powerful Bui Doi and scenes such as the ‘Fall of Saigon’ and the ‘hotel room’ were done well . His character, although completely developed in some scenes, still needs to develop a little more to encompass all aspects of John’s character and struggle.

The ensemble were excellent and the singing of the whole company was exceptional. Of all the shows I see I think this is one at which I spend more time looking and watching parts of the scenes other than the principals as there are so many stories and situations being played out in the background which make the whole scene feel so natural and realistic, especially the opening ‘Heat is on in Saigon’.

Saigon continues to be a wonderful show to watch, it is a pity the train service could not offer the same quality for our money although they did kindly give us 4 extra hours travel time, but for some reason we weren’t grateful !!!

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