Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Miss Saigon"

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note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone



"MISS SAIGON"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone



Encore Rep's spring musical is "Miss Saigon." Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's "Miss Saigon" is an epic and tragic musical of a young couple in love, torn apart by the Vietnam War in 1975 but held together by a burning passion and the fate of a small child. It is based on Giacomo Puccini's "Madame Butterfly" which premiered in 1904. The conflicting cultures and ideologies of the world meet violently in Saigon where cultures clash and ways of life battle on a grand scale. At the eye of the storm stand these two lovers, Kim, a Vietnamese girl who is forced to work in a sex shop and Chris, an American marine guard at the U.S. Embassy. When Saigon falls, Chris is forced to evacuate with the American forces, not realizing that Kim is pregnant. She falls in with her former employer, the Engineer, who is determined to make it to America with Kim's son as his passport there. He pretends to be her brother and they move to Bangkok. Chris returns home, eventually marries and a few years later finds out about his son. He and his wife, Ellen travel to Bangkok to find Kim who is determined to make Chris take their son back to America at any cost. "Miss Saigon" ran for 4,092 performances and is the 13th longest running musical on Broadway. Director Becca Donald assembles a multitalented cast to fill these roles while musical director Mark Colozzi not only taught these intricate melodies and harmonies to them but plays lead keyboards while directing a fantastic orchestra. This magnificent show is a masterpiece with its soaring ballads, comic songs and gut wrenching dramatic acting. The audience leaps to their feet at the curtain call to reward their expertise.

Becca keeps the show in constant motion and brings out the best in her cast with her insightful direction and blocking. Mark's nonstop conducting and playing lead keyboards of the 64 musical numbers is astounding. He makes the cast and the 8 piece orchestra sound splendid in this sung thru musical. Some of the numbers in this score sound like "Les Miserables", "The King & I", "Cabaret", "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Evita." The standout group harmonies are in "Movie in My Mind" as the girls envision leaving Saigon, "The Wedding Song" where Chris and Kim pledge themselves to each other, "The Heat is On in Saigon" and "Bui Doi." Show stopping harmonies occur in "This is The Hour" and "Morning of the Dragon." The dance numbers by choreographer Meaghan Bruneault include the sex shop dance by the girls, the marching of the Viet Cong, ballet, and patriotic dance with a soft shoe and kick line to "The American Dream." The set is by Wayne Boucher while the costumes are by Teal Griswold.

Leading this multitalented cast is Sara LaFlamme as Kim. She has a powerhouse voice which fills the theatre with her strong soprano voice. Sara's many solos include "Unicorn", "Sun and Moon" reprise and "I Will Give Life To You" which she sings to her son. Her other numbers include "Movie in My Mind", and the many ballads with Chris including "Kim and Chris Dance", "This Money's Yours", the gorgeous duets, "Sun and Moon" and "Last Night of the World" with a fabulous saxophone solo in it as well as "Please" with Chris' best friend, John. Sara's other duets include "I Still Believe" and "Kim and Ellen" with Ellen. Sara delivers a heartfelt and gut wrenching performance as Kim. The biggest scene stealer in the show is Brian Lopes as the Engineer, who supplies the GI's by supplying them with girls in his sex shop called Dreamland. Later on he entices tourists in a Bangkok sex shop. Brian delivers the comic moments needed to escape the harsh realities of the war. The Engineer is reminiscent of the Emcee in "Cabaret." His baritone voice is superb. Brian's most impressive numbers are "If You Want to Die in Bed" which vocally reminds you of Judas in "Superstar", in "Bangkok" where he sells his wares in the sex shop and in the well known vaudeville type song, "The American Dream" where he sings and dances about finally escaping to America while hilariously humping a Chevy onstage. Cooper Ceruolo is magnificent as Chris, playing the role with the necessary anguish and pathos the part calls for. His tenor voice soars off the charts in "Why, God, Why?" where he wonders why he finally found the girl of his dreams in hellish Vietnam. This song is reminiscent of "Younger Than Springtime" from "South Pacific." Cooper also excels in his duets with Sara, "Sun and Moon" and "The Last Night of the World" which displays the raw emotions of being in love but unable to control your destiny, and in the emotion packed "The Revelation" with Chris' best friend, John. Cooper's show stopping number comes when he breaks down in tears during "The Confrontation" song with John and Ellen. It is definitely a gut wrenching and tear jerking sequence that moves the audience to tears. Young Honesto Aguinaldo captures your heart from his first entrance to the end of the show as Kim and Chris' son, Tam.

Chris' best friend, John is splendidly played by Brandon Suprenant who makes this soldier buddy into a warm and caring friend. He eventually helps Chris find his long lost son. Brandon uses his terrific voice to sell the emotion packed, "Bui Doi" which opens the second act and is sung with perfect harmonization by the male chorus while slides of real life Vietnamese children play in the background. He also sings in many numbers including the helicopter escape "Please" with Kim as well as "The Confrontation." Chris' American wife, Ellen is excellently played by Samantha Hartley. She conveys her confusion at Chris' bad dreams and behavior and the eventual realization of the horrors he suffered in Vietnam. Samantha's fantastic voice is heard in the counterpoint song with Kim called "I Still Believe" and in the confrontation songs called "Room 317" with Kim as well as "The Confrontation." Her solo "Now That I've Seen Her" is splendid as she realizes Kim's plight and stops the show with her powerful rendition. Kim's cousin Thuy who she was pledged to be married to which was made by her parents, is wonderfully played by Ting Lik To. Thuy is the villain of the show who tries to take Tam away from Kim. oozes the right amount of evilness as this repressive agent of the Viet Cong. He displays his topnotch voice in "Thuy's Intervention", "The Morning of the Dragon", "The Coo Coo Princess", "Thuy's Death" and "The Nightmare." Amanda Palmer shines as Gigi, one of the Engineer's girls and displays her voice in the opening montage, the wedding song and in "Movie in My Mind." Kudos to everyone in the show including the singing and dancing chorus. So for a marvelous musical treat, be sure to catch "Miss Saigon" by Encore Repertory Company at the Stadium Theatre. Tell them Tony sent you. You definitely won't be disappointed.

MISS SAIGON (6 to 8 May)
Encore Repertory Company, Stadium Theatre, 28 Monument Square, Woonsocket, RI
1(401)762-4545 or www.encorerepco.org




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