Miss Saigon - 18 April 1998

My seventh visit proved to be best performance I have seen of the show for several years. The Cast were:

Engineer - Leo Valdez
Kim -Cezarah Campos
Chris - David Shannon
John -Richard Lloyd King
Ellen - Gunilla Backman
Thuy - Jo Jo de la Cerna

As with the other B & S shows each time I pay another visit I notice so much more and yesterdays performance was to coin a well known UK phrase 'Absolutely Fabulous' !!!

The girls in Dreamland were extremely raunchy and created the atmosphere perfectly for the opening scene. Cezarah Campos was a lovely Kim, full of expression and a great voice. From the naive girl at the beginning to the determined woman at the end she played it beautifully. The sequence I thought was perfect was just before the American Dream, as the Engineer sings 'Me you and Tam, what a menage, Bangkok can screw, Bon Voyage' Kim, having made up her mind what she is going to do, seemed to take on a serene nature and almost ghostly presence standing on the corner of the bar, smiling at the Engineer. Considering David Shannon can have only played the role no more than half a dozen times he fitted the role perfectly and seemed to have grasped an understanding of the character so well. Knowing already from Martin Guerre that he has wonderful voice, he confirmed it again yesterday. This was a Chris who you could sympathise with caught in a situation over which he has no control. Cezarah and David worked so well together, particularly during the Sun and Moon sequence. The final scene was so emotional, I know it always is, but this was more emotional than usual. Cezarah is the first Kim I've seen who doesn't finish the last line, dying before she can say 'far' Chris's anguished cry had me and everyone around me in tears.

Following last times outing with Jacinta Whyte, Gunilla Backman was a very refreshing change playing an Ellen trying hard to understand a situation where she is the outsider. One thing I particularly liked was the opening of Act 2 after Bui Doi where on previously occasions Chris and Ellen have walked off arm and arm, this time Ellen knew what Chris was going to tell her and ran off in tears with Chris after her. This portrayed the more natural reaction.

After the 'Gospel' John of Clinton Derricks-Carroll, Richard Lloyd-Kings's John was a very realistic character caught in between the whole situation trying to do a job but emotionally involved aswell. He sang a great 'Bui Doi', a man pleading with the audience to help and not preaching at them (as on previous occasions) David, Richard and Gunilla particularly came to the fore during the confrontation and as the truck went back you could feel the tense atmosphere being left in the hotel room

I saw Jo Jo de la Cerna as Thuy a couple of years ago and he is still very good. whereas the original Thuy was portrayed as a very dislikable man, Thuy now is a character again caught in a situation spiralling out of control. He is man obviously in love with Kim but his look of anguish as Kim shows him Tam tells you that his dreams had been shattered and in desperation he thinks by eliminating Tam all would be OK. Kim's cry as he dies is echoed in Chris's cry at the end.

Finally to Leo, wonderful. A very cocky, confident and desperate Engineer. In the final scene as he lets Ellen take Tam his realisation that there will be no more chances to leave. I always like the Bangkok scene for the engineer with his new flashy coat and the constant bartering between all the 'pimps' for men. I also like the 'this in the hour' sequence where Leo, Cezarah and Jo Jo played to 100% effect.

When you look at scenes such as Dreamland, Bangkok and the Fall of Saigon there is so much going on and make such compulsive viewing. For me I especially like the 'Fall of Saigon' and the slow motion effect as people climb up the gates makes the emotional impact stronger and the desperation of those that are left behind collapsing on to each other as they realise their chance is gone

Overall I can't fault the performance I saw yesterday, after 9 years the show is still full of vitality and emotion and the 'sold out' audience gave the show one of the longest curtain calls I've seen for Saigon . Go and see this cast, they are brilliant. A seventh visit, seventh heaven ? definitely: )

We had a nice chat with David Shannon after the show, mainly discussing MG (what a surprise !!).

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