With Miss Saigon’s return to the West End marking the 25th anniversary of the show, you’d be forgiven for expecting this production to feel a little dated. You couldn’t, of course, be more wrong. Laurence Connor’s revival is magnificent: transporting the audience from Saigon to Atlanta to Bangkok with a seamless elegance – and the whole piece is lit with flare thanks to Bruno Poet’s sumptuous designs.
To recap: Boublil and Schönberg’s musical reimagines the tragic tale of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly in the city of Saigon during the closing days of the Vietnam War. It tells the tale of ingénue Kim (Eva Noblezada), the love affair she has with the soon departing US Marine, Chris (Alistair Brammer), and the repercussions their tryst has over their lives for years to come.
Fans of the show will recognise the unflappable Jon Jon Briones as the Engineer, who has been playing the role, on and off, since 1989, and so it makes no bones that he’s shining here – he, in fact, gets the biggest applause of the night. And with such familiar faces on hand, there’s a certain sense of nostalgia for those who saw the show first time round. However, there are changes too – most notably a new musical number, Maybe. A souring addition, it thankfully gives Tamsin Carroll as Ellen, the woman Chris marries upon returning to America, something meaty to do – a blessing, as her incredible vocals are otherwise wasted in what is essentially a side role.
It’s Noblezada though who is a true wonder. Picked from near-obscurity in New York last year, Miss Saigon marks her professional debut – and yet she’s arguably the best thing on the West End stage at the moment. Her reprise of classic love song Sun and Moon is particularly glorious.
The show is a triumph overall, managing to evoke the heady heights and passions of love against the drama of war with both ease and intensity. For many productions, a 25 year anniversary doesn’t happen often, so, please, don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate such a well-loved piece of theatre. Oh and yes, the helicopter is back and still as impressive as ever.
Miss Saigon is showing at Prince Edward Theatre, London. Tickets are available here.