Miss Saigon - 10th Anniversary - 20 September 1999

For me my last trip to Saigon could not have been more perfect. The 10th anniversary performance of Miss Saigon was held at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and consisted of a normal performance, augmented in chorus scenes, and then a celebratory finale featuring Lea Salonga, Simon Bowman, Claire Moore, Keith Burns,Jonathan Pryce and the creative team.

From the opening in Dreamland the energy flowed from the cast determined to give the audience the best performance possible. From the evening the four performances that must be singled out are Joanna Ampil, David Shannon, Leo Valdez and Jo Jo de la Cerna. Joanna and David had a wonderful chemistry and from the their initial meeting in Dreamland you could feel a connection between them and their love affair was portrayed to perfection. I would rate Joanna as the best Kim I have seen, Cezarah, who I have seen on the past two occasions, is excellent as Kim but Joanna just adds that something more. She has a great voice and puts so much emotion into her character. This was the third time I saw David as Chris and he confirmed himself as my favourite Chris. Again not only a great voice but great characterisation and in the finale as Kim is dying his devastation at what is happening is so apparent as he begs her not to die knowing that her death is inevitable. His final cry as he pulls Kim to him reflecting Kim's actions and cry as she pulled Thuy to her after his death.

The emotion throughout the performance was so high in particular during Thuy /Kim confrontation. Both Joanna and Jo Jo were in tears through most the scene. Thuy practically breaking down when he realises the child is Kim's. I have seen Jo Jo on the last three occasions I have seen the show and he has to be the best Thuy there is. He creates a human character who is obviously in love with Kim, when he asks the Engineer to find her his change in character as soon as they are left alone as he asks him to ‘find my cousin for me'. As he begs her to say yes and puts his hands out to her and gently saying ‘ come with me'. His ability to change the character from gentle to aggressive as things don't work out as he wants was excellent. As he is dying he puts his hand to her face himself not believing that she has just shot him . Kim's cry as he dies is an indication that her actions were a last resort and she didn't want to kill her childhood friend but as she says ‘I have no choice'

Leo Valdez was fabulous, his wheeling and dealing with only the US in mind. The energy put into all the songs and he worked so well with Joanna, both creating a believeable realationship between them. I suppose he could be described as a loveable rogue !!!!! The small elements of his performance just make it special and give more understanding of his character. He obviously doesn't trust Kim 100% though as on a few occasions he uses Tam as a tool remind her not to mess him around. After John visits Kim, the first thing he checks is to see if Tam is still there. In the finale he holds Tam's face away so he can't see his mother dying and then he looks over to Kim and seeing that she has died he hands Tam, reluctantly, over to Ellen, his hopes dashed.

The show deservedly received a standing ovation and many, many curtain calls.

As this was the birthday celebration there was an extra finale. After the cast curtain calls the curtain rose to reveal a solitary figure in the darkness on stage, Lea Salonga. She received a raptuous welcome and treated us to a beautiful rendition of the first and in truth her ending, The Sacred Bird. Following that she made a thank you speech from the cast and in particular for the Philippine performers to the production team and in particular Cameron, Alain and Claude Michel. She was then joined by Simon Bowman, Claire Moore and Keith Burns who performed a quartet version of ‘This is the Hour' before being joined by the company and the additional chorus made up of several previous cast members. The stage then cleared to reveals Jonathan Pryce, again welcomed with huge applause, and he performed a special version of the American Dream with some lyrics fitting the birthday celebration. As the cadillac came on the driver was revealed to be Cameron Mackintosh and other occupants were Claude Michel Schonberg, Alain Boublil, Nicholas Hytner, Bob Avian, Richard Malbty Jr and John Napier. Speeches were made by Cameron, Claude Michel, Alain and Nicholas.

The current principal performers joined the company on stage and to the singing of American Dream they bid the audience good bye, with fireworks finishing the celebrations.

All in all a wonderful evening which I shall always remember and it was worth missing the last train for !!!

21.9.99
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