Last week I saw the Tony-nominated revival of “Miss Saigon” on Broadway. This production played London’s West End in 2014, and I am thrilled to say that I have seen both incarnations. This epic megamusical is the story of Kim, an orphan who is forced to work as a bargirl in a sleazy nightclub owned by the notorious “Engineer.” During the last days of the Vietnam War, she meets an American GI, and their lives are changed forever.
This sung-through musical contains an epic score written by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil (they also wrote the score to another famous megamusical, “Les Misérables”). It consists of gorgeous ballads and soaring duets like “I’d Give My Life For You,” “I Still Believe,” “The Last Night of the World;” and even The Engineer’s flashy 11 o’clock production number: “The American Dream.” Some lyrics have been changed since the original production (including the addition of a new song called “Maybe”), and are major improvements compared to what can be heard on the original Broadway cast recording.
The two leads of the show are Eva Noblezada and Jon Jon Briones, as Kim and The Engineer respectively. They are reprising their roles from the 2014 West End engagement, and I am so glad that they brought their brilliant performances to Broadway audiences. Noblezada is a well-deserved Tony nominee for this role (she’s my favorite of the 5 Best Actress nominees), and she portrays Kim with raw emotion and powerhouse vocals. She is making her Broadway debut at age 21! Briones is a fantastic Engineer, and I so wish that his performance was recognized with a Tony nomination; it’s one of my favorites of this VERY competitive season. Other significant performances include: Alistair Brammer as Chris (the American GI), Nicholas Christopher as John (another soldier and friend to Chris), Rachelle Ann Go as Gigi (another bargirl), and Katie Rose Clarke as Ellen (Chris’s wife after he returns to the US); all in excellent voice.
It isn’t a review of “Miss Saigon” without talking about the iconic helicopter. While the effect has certainly dazzled audiences since the show’s debut in 1989, it had to be updated for audiences in 2017. This included the addition of stunning projections and sound effects that really immerse the audience during this scene. Once the projection opens up to reveal the “real” helicopter, the theatre magic is definitely still there, even if the moment itself runs a little long.
This is a stunning revival of an epic musical, and it’s great that a new generation can be swept away with the heartbreaking story. I give it 8/10 escapes! “Miss Saigon” is currently playing at the Broadway Theatre through January 2018.