MISS SAIGON Review: Cameron Mackintosh's epic touring production is musical theatre at its very best

Sooha Kim and Gerald Santos in MISS SAIGON

Sooha Kim and Gerald Santos in MISS SAIGON. Photo Credit: Johan Persson

Cameron Mackintosh’s epic touring production of MISS SAIGON is musical theatre at its very best

Since its London premiere in 1989, MISS SAIGON has become one of the most successful musicals in history. Performed in 32 countries, 369 cities and in 15 different languages, the tragic tale of love, longing and sacrifice, has captivated audiences across the world and is now back on stage for a major UK tour produced by Cameron Mackintosh.

Heavily influenced by Puccini’s 1903 opera MADAME BUTTERFLY, MISS SAIGON tells the story of 17 year-old Kim who is forced to work in a Saigon bar during the Vietnam War by a notorious character known as the Engineer. Kim meets and falls in love with an American GI named Chris but they are torn apart by the fall of Saigon. For three years Kim goes on an epic journey of survival to find her way back to Chris, who has no idea he’s fathered a son.

With its lavish set, dazzling special effects, sumptuous score and superb cast, MISS SAIGON is a jaw-dropping musical spectacle. Combining the best elements of the recent West End and Broadway productions, every inch of this stunning musical production takes your breath away. The fantastic moving set seamlessly moves the action from the dirty streets of Saigon to the gates of the American Embassy where the famous helicopter scene thoroughly deserves the round of applause it gets. Even the Ho Chi Minh City scenes have been given a visual boost, with greater urgency in the choreography and the addition of pyrotechnics.

Ashley Gilmour and Sooha Kim in MISS SAIGON

Ashley Gilmour and Sooha Kim in MISS SAIGON. Photo Credit: Johan Persson

As expected, the cast is impeccably strong. Sooha Kim is sweet and sincere as Kim and her chemistry with Ashley Gilmour’s Chris is well-matched, both actors showing real emotion, particularly in the heart-breaking final scene. But it is Red Concepción who steals the show as the twistedly delicious Engineer, finding humour in a vile character.

Add in Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil’s operatic score and it’s no wonder many adore this musical. Here, Kim and Chris’ romantic duets SUN AND MOON and THE LAST NIGHT OF THE WORLD beautifully contrast with the desperate war scenes to come, and there is some light relief offered in the Engineer’s IF YOU WANT TO DIE IN BED and THE AMERICAN DREAM.

The sheer quality and scale of this production of MISS SAIGON also sets a new standard, easily rating as one of the most spectacular in terms of staging, set, lighting and sheer complexity. This is musical theatre at its very best. Prepare to be blown away.

5 out of 5 stars

MISS SAIGON runs at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until 12 May 2018.