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Vietnam at The Point.
Miss Saigon: The Point
Member Name: MurphEE
Miss Saigon: The Point
Date: 05/08/02, updated on 05/08/02 (2015 review reads)
Advantages: Music and visual effect.
I am not a musical person, musical theatre that is. I have been to a number of local productions and enjoyed them but I much prefer drama or comedy when I visit the theatre. As my wife’s birthday was fast approaching and I was struggling to think of a suitable present Miss Saigon came and saved me. By the magic of Ticket Master I booked tickets for the production on the actual day at The Point Depot in Dublin.
The Point Depot is a converted warehouse located just fifteen minutes from O’Connell Street in Dublin’s dockland. It is a multipurpose venue that hosts theatre and concert performances. Check out their website at www.thepoint.ie for information on access and forthcoming attractions.
This production of the musical has the London cast with some of the members being with the show since the opening night in September 1989. That is something that always amazes me, the longevity of these productions. How can they do two performances a day for ten years? It beggars belief until you realise that in that business it equates to a steady job and something that is not all that easy to find.
The show is now on a UK tour and all the details and dates are available from www.miss-siagon.com. There are shows in Dublin twice a day and we chose the 19:45 evening performance. It runs until September 28th Settling into my seat I wasn’t really looking forward to the next couple of hours. The last thing I wanted was a lot of people singing at me but I was here for Ann as she had really wanted to see it and I have lost count of the number of things she has attended at my behest. I was determined to keep an o
pen mind and give the show a fair chance to impress me.
I was blown away! From the opening scene to the dramatic climax this is a show not to be missed. The production standards are the highest I have ever encountered and it is an experience that you will not forget. The music is wonderful and sets the scene with aplomb. I was one of the first on my feet for the ovation that the cast rightly received at the end of the show. Ann liked it too!
The story is well known but I am ashamed to say that I was unaware of how it would end. It is based on the opera Madame Butterfly but not having ever attended an opera I was blissfully unaware that Puccini’s opera told the story of love, loss and sacrifice. Miss Saigon takes the story and transplants it to Vietnam during the war, which involved the USA. Alain Boubil wrote the story and apparently he was inspired by a picture of a woman trying to give up her child at Saigon airport. She was willing to part with her child in the hope that the child would have a better life in America. That hope of something better in a country far away is a central theme of the show.
The show begins in Saigon in 1975 and the scene is a bar run by The Engineer (Leo Tavarro Valdez). He is a sleazy character who dreams of making enough money to leave Saigon for America and will sell anything and anybody to get there. He has found a young girl from the country who has come to Saigon to escape an arranged marriage. Kim (Joanna Ampil) is lost and alone in the city and is ensnared by The Engineer who intends to use her virginity as currency with the sex hungry soldiers who frequent his bar.
On Kim’s first night in the bar it is packed with soldiers and among the throng are John (Kingsley Leggs) and his friend Chris (Niklas Andersson). Chris is disillusioned by Vietnam and wonders why they are there in the first place. John buys him a night with Kim to cheer him up. Chris is disgusted
with his friend but then takes one look at Kim and falls in love.
They live together for two magical weeks but then are separated as Saigon falls and tragically lose contact with each other. Chris returns to America and tries to find word of Kim. There is none. Kim struggles to survive in the newly named Ho Chi Min City. She has to make terrible choices to survive and eventually escapes from Vietnam with The Engineer. They end up in Bangkok and finally get word to America that Kim is alive.
Like all classic love stories there are a number of complications that may yet forestall a happy ending. The lovers are reunited in Bangkok and the final resolution of their situation is both dramatic and heart rending. I defy you not to be touched by the ending.
The quality of the songs is excellent from the ensemble work to the individual pieces and duets. The numbers that stood out for me were The Last Night of the World sung by Kim and Chris and The American Dream sung by The Engineer and the company.
The first is a duet between the two young lovers and brings across the joy that they have discovered in the mayhem that it is Saigon. It is powerful and emotive and both performers gave a classic rendition on the night that we attended. The American Dream is an ensemble piece lead by The Engineer. It tells the story of what The Engineer believes is available in America. As he sings of the things that he will encounter there we see some of them come to life on stage around him. Powerful and comedic stuff that has everyone in the audience swaying and tapping their feet. There are many more great songs but these were the two that stuck with me.
Sir Cameron Mackintosh produces the show and Matthew Ryan directs the touring production. I really don’t know enough about musical theatre to tell you who is in charge of the sets but I can tell you that they are magnificent. The attention to detail is complete and y
ou will feel that you are looking at a movie on stage. That is the best way that I can describe it. You may have heard that they have a helicopter and it turns up in Act Two. I have to say that it is also very convincing. Indeed, the entire fall of Saigon section is the most compelling and breathtaking scene that I have ever experienced at the theatre.
The show has a strong message about the plight of ordinary people in war. We have the central characters and the turmoil that they experience but along the way we also meet others like the girls who work in the bars of Saigon. They are making money in a way that they dislike but it is the only method available to them. They have dreams of a better life and have seen what the Americans have and want some of that for themselves. You cannot help but feel sorry for them and the performances are tinged with a sadness that brings home the futility of their dreams.
I am not saying that I have been converted to musical theatre but I will say that Miss Saigon is a wonderful production and an exciting and entertaining experience.
Thank you for reading.
© MurphEE 2002
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