Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Miss Saigon"

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entire contents copyright 2007 by Tony Annicone

"Miss Saigon"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Company Theatre's current show is the Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, "Miss Saigon" an epic and tragic musical of a young couple in love, who are torn apart by the Vietnam war in 1975 but are held together by a burning passion and the fate of a small child. 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 this 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 and the old city disappears forever under the red banners and yellow stars of the Viet Cong, Chris not realizing that Kim is pregnant, is forced to evacuate with the U.S. forces from the country. She falls in with her former employer, the procurer of sex slaves, the Engineer, who is determined to reach America with her son as the passport he needs and pretends to be her brother. The three of them then move to Bangkok. Chris returns home and eventually marries, a few years later he learns of 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. Directors Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman assemble a huge and multitalented cast to fill all these roles while musical director Michael Joseph not only taught these intricate melodies and harmonies to the cast but conducts a fabulous orchestra, too and choreographer, Sally Ashton Forrest not only taught the dances but stages these picture postcard moments with the performers. This magnificent show is a masterpiece with its soaring ballads, comic songs and gut wrenching dramatic acting and it is rewarded by show stopping applause during the show and a thunderous standing ovation at the curtain call. Bravo on a job extremely well done.

Zoe and Jordie keep the action flowing throughout the show with their fast set changes and their use of a real helicopter and a real car in the second act. Their direction and blocking of their performers is done with ease and they bring out the best in each and everyone of them. Michael's non-stop conducting of 64 musical numbers is amazing and he makes the cast and the orchestra sound splendid while doing so in this all singing opera like show. Some of the musical numbers sound like "Les Miserables" ,( which is also a Boublil and Schonberg show ) "The King & I", "South Pacific", "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Evita". The standout group harmonies are the girls songs "The Movie in My Mind" where they envision their escape from Saigon and "The Wedding Song" where Chris and Kim pledge themselves to each other and the boys songs "The Heat is on in Saigon" and "Bui-Doi" which is a tear jerking number about the children left behind at the end of the war. (It is made even more poignant with a slide show of real life children from that era.) Sally's dance numbers include the sex shop dance by the girls who are dressed up like the Kit Kat girls from "Cabaret'', the scary marching of the Viet Cong in "The Morning of the Dragon" and the patriotic type dance in "The American Dream". All of the numbers are excellent ones and the talent of the cast flows out to an appreciative audience.

Leading this huge cast is Jennifer Schaffer as Kim. She is tiny in stature but has a powerhouse voice which fulls the theater with her strong soprano voice. Her many solos include "Unicorn", "Sun and Moon" reprise and "I Will Die for You" which she sings to her son. Her other numbers include "Movie in My Mind" and the many ballads with Chris including "Kim & Chris Dance", "This Money's Yours", the gorgeous duets, "Sun & Moon" and "Last Night of the World" with a fabulous saxophone solo in it, as well as "Please" with John, Chris' best friend.. Jennifer's other duets include "I Still Believe" and ""Kim and Ellen" with Ellen and the duets with the Engineer, "Kim & Engineer" and "Paper Dragons". She is flawless in all of them. Brava. The biggest scene stealer in this show is John King as Engineer who helps the GI's by supplying them with girls in his sex shop called Dreamland and later on entices the tourists in a Bangkok sex shop. He gives the needed comic moments to escape from the harsh reality of the war. The character is reminiscent of the Emcee in "Cabaret'' at times. John is a triple threat performer who wows you with his talent. His voice is incredible and his most impressive songs are the well known vaudeville type number "The American Dream" where he sings about finally escaping from Bangkok, ( when the real American car arrives on stage, John jumps on top of it begins fucking it, kissing it and stroking it which is one of the most hilarious moments in the show) "If You Want to Die in Bed" which vocally reminds you of Judas in "Jesus Christ Superstar", "The Night of the Dragon" where he pleads for his life before the Communists and his two songs with Kim. John's performance captivates you all night long. Michael Warner plays Chris with the needed anguish and pathos the part calls for. He awesome tenor voice soars off the charts in his first solo "Why, God, Why" where he wonders why he finally found the girl of his dreams in the hell of Vietnam, ( this number is reminiscent of "Younger Than Springtime" from "South Pacific") as well as in the two ballads with Kim, "Sun and Moon" and "Last Night of the World" which displays the raw emotions of being in love but unable to control your destiny. Young Peter Wang who plays Kim and Chris' young son, Tam doesn't utter a word but he captures your heart from his first entrance to the end of the show where he cries uncontrollably at the impending doom of the inevitable death of his mother in the show.

Chris' best friend, John is played by Kenneth Harmon who makes this soldier buddy into a warm and caring friend, eventually helping Chris to find his long lost son. He uses his strong voice sells the emotion paced, "Bui-Doi" which opens the second act and is sung with the harmonizing men's chorus. Kenneth also sings in many numbers including the helicopter escape, "Please" with Kim and "Ellen & Chris". Chris' American wife, Ellen is wonderfully played by Kendra Kachadoorian who conveys the confusion at Chris' bad dreams and behavior and her eventual realization of the horrors he suffered in Vietnam. Her fantastic voice is heard in the counterpoint song with Kim called "I Still Believe" and in the confrontation songs called "Kim & Ellen" and "Chris & Ellen". Kim's cousin Thuy who she was pledged to be married to, by her parents many years ago is played by Matthew Torrance who makes his stage debut in this role. Thuy is the villain of the show who tries to take Tam away from Kim. Matthew oozes the right amount of evilness as this repressive agent of the Viet Cong. He shows off his wonderful voice in "Thuy's Intervention", "The Night of the Dragon", "The Coo Coo Princess", "Thuy's Death" and "Thuy's Ghost". Kristen Huberdeau plays Gigi, one of Engineer's girls and she gets to show off her voice in the opening montage, the wedding song and "The Movie In My Mind". Kudos to everyone in the show including the singing and dancing chorus members. So for a terrific musical treat, be sure to catch "Miss Saigon" at Company Theatre. Tell them Tony sent you. You won't be disappointed.

"Miss Saigon" (27 July - 19 August)
30 Accord Park Drive, NORWELL MA
1 (781) 871-2787

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide