Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s epic musical Miss Saigon was originally inspired by a single photograph. A distressed young child in Saigon was being taken away from her mother to join her ex-GI father in America. The pain is evident, as the mother gives up her child in order for her daughter to live a better life than what she can offer in Vietnam. It is the brutal reality of war: the impact upon the survivors, the aftermath in the wake of the extensive destruction, not only of the landscape, but upon the lives of the survivors.
Miss Saigon first premiered in 1989, opening in London’s West End and then made its Broadway debut in 1991. The Australian premiere was a Sydney-only season in 1995, with a return, multi-city season in 2008. Fifteen years later, Miss Saigon has returned to Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne’s East End Theatre District in an outstanding, lavish new production by Opera Australia and Cameron Mackintosh.
From the moment the audience enters Her Majesty’s Theatre, the scale of this production is evident, with the incredible set extending beyond the stage and cleverly hiding any speakers, creating a very intimate presence. This grand scale of excellence and attention to detail continues through every aspect of this production. An impressive sound design by Mick Potter not only ensures every note is heard, but in combination with the lighting design by Bruno Poet, creates a very realistic sense of a helicopter flying over the audience.
Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s extraordinary score is expertly brought to life under the musical supervision of Guy Simpon and musical direction of Laura Tipokil superbly performed by Orchestra Victoria. A large ensemble deliver an outstanding performance throughout the show.
Seann Miley Moore is a revelation as the Engineer, completing transforming this character into their own unique interpretation. Moore brings a cheeky campness that makes the Engineer likeable enough that it makes Kim’s decision to place her trust in him plausible, but with sufficient restraint to maintain the narcissism. Moore brings an incredible passion and energy to the role, and matches this with powerful vocals and has set a new standard for this character.
Abigail Adriano is stunning in her professional leading debut in the role of Kim. From the opening scene she is utterly convincing as a young 17 year old victim of war atrocities; vulnerable and frightened. As the story unfolds Adriano’s performance transforms as Kim falls in love and becomes a fiercely devoted and protective mother. Ultimately, Miss Saigon is Kim’s story.
The role of Tam is shared by eight talented young children, with young Archer Wang wowing the opening night audience.
Nigel Huckle shares a believable onstage chemistry with Adriano. Huckle is warm and charming, and portrays the conflict of his complicated love-triangle with sensitivity.
Kerrie Anne Greenland brings an incredible maturity to her portrayal of Ellen.
Nick Afoa is outstanding as John, and his heartfelt rendition of ‘Bui Doi’ is a show highlight.
Laurence Mossman delivers a strong and confident performance as the somewhat villain of the story, Thuy.
Kimberley Hodgson shines as Gigi, delivering a heartfelt performance of ‘The Movie In My Mind’.
With the current conflicts in various parts of the world, including Ukraine, Israel and Gaza, the story of Miss Saigon feels more relevant than ever. While others around me wept, I felt angry. Angry at the exploitation of these women, angry at the unnecessary loss of civilian lives, angry at the treatment of these ‘Bui Doi’ children, and then wondering if any of these fractured families were ever reunited. And isn’t that what quality theatre does? It does not simply entertain, but rather it provokes a deep response. It causes us to think. It makes us question. It draws parallels to current world events. And hopefully, it motivates us to make changes. And then … I wept.
This is Miss Saigon at its very best.
Miss Saigon is now playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne’s East End Theatre District for a strictly limited season.
For more information and tickets: https://miss-saigon.com.au/tickets/melbourne/
Photo credit: Daniel Boud