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Miss Saigon Takes Off from Plymouth
The Engineer in Miss Saigon
Jon Jon Briones as The Engineer was the star of the show
Photos: Michael Le Poer Trench
Boublil and Schonberg’s hit musical Miss Saigon has been reborn with the help of TR2. Completely re-designed, this scaled down touring production can fit into smaller venues but will be the largest touring show in Britain.
Review: Elaine McFadyen
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Behind the Scenes of Miss Saigon

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WHAT THE AUDIENCE SAID

Quote A really splendid show with intense performances. We prefer this production to the one we saw in London - Sheila and Bridget from Saltash

The technology used for the helicopter was great, making it a very modern musical - Audrey from Liskeard

I loved the music and especially liked the performance of the Engineer- Joseph from Tavistock

Absolutely wonderful show - Mrs Broadhurst from Plymouth. Quote

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This is a major event for Plymouth’s Theatre Royal and should continue to enhance the profile of TR2 as a big player in the making of multi-million pound theatre productions.

Adrian Vaux’s split level set convincingly recreates the sleazy night-clubs and dirty backstreets of war-torn Saigon in 1975.

When I saw the show, it had been been running for a full week, so any teething problems with the gliding set seem to have been ironed out before the press were allowed to view.

I only noticed a couple of minor glitches which is impressive considering the complexities of the design.

From the opening screaming of helicopter blades resounding round the auditorium, a sound so synonymous with the horrors of the Vietnam War, we were transported into a battle zone of brothels where female flesh is cheap and US soldiers get "more bangs for their bucks"!

Kim and Chris
Kim and Chris (Miriam Valmores Marasigan and Steven Houghton)

Miriam Valmores-Marasigan as the diminutive Kim was dwarfed next to the towering physique of Steve Houghton, her well meaning but confused GI lover.

This perfectly emphasised her fragile vulnerability.

His first big number was sung Kermit like half way up the stairs, but he was no croaking frog.

"Sun and Moon" was a beautifully tender duet sung by Chris and Kim as they find they are in love.

Enter the Dragon...

The show completely changes gear as the third anniversary of reunification is being celebrated.

Red banners and an image of Ho Chi Minh drop while a Chinese Dragon snakes across the stage to ringing oriental percussive sounds.

Down in their pit the small orchestra seemed to easily fuse eastern and western musical styles.

The best performance in the show is that of the Engineer, and Jon Jon Briones has made this role his own all over the world.

Jon Jon Briones as The Engineer
The Engineer - slimy but fab!

He is a loathsome pimp and self-centred money grabbing wheeler-dealer but he gets to wear the most outrageous suits and to sing the best numbers.

He’s a slimy character but his charm and comedic delivery means you just have to love him...I could have watched him all night long!

The second act opens with a powerful overture, and film of mixed race orphans - the legacy of the Yanks' fecundity.

Here the message is powerfully driven home that it’s the children who continue to suffer after the bombing has ceased.

The Famous Final Helicopter Flight

Much of the pre-publicity for this production has focused on the computerised wizardry used to create the helicopter scene as the Americans finally leave their embassy in Saigon.

The special effects work really well as the virtual chopper takes off with Chris on board and Kim left behind in the middle of the emotional turmoil and chaos of the fall of the city.

Kim and Tam
It all ends in tears for Kim and Tam (played by Ivan Chan

Is there anyone who doesn’t know how this tragic story ends?

Kim sacrifices her life for her son’s future in America. Kerry Ellis as Ellen, Chris’s American wife, takes the child in her arms and hugs him.

Although not on stage much, the brief moments with Ellen are emotional and compassionate as well as vocally beautiful.

I have no doubts that this new touring production of the epic Miss Saigon will be a massive success.

Based loosely on Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg created such a wonderful timeless score.

Occasionally I cringed a bit at some of the rhyming lyrics but that occurred in the translation from the original French.

I also wanted to tone down some of the emotional peaks when the performers seemed to overdo it - just a bit.

Overall though congrats to everyone involved in this emotional roller-coaster of a show. Let's hope it really takes off and enjoys huge success.

Elaine

Miss Saigon
Theatre Royal, Plymouth
Weds 14th July - Sat 21st Aug 2004
Tickets: £21.50 - £38
Box Office: 01752
267222


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