Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Miss Saigon"

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entire contents copyright 2010 by Tony Annicone

"Miss Saigon"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

InCharge Productions 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. Boublil and Schonberg also wrote "Les Miserables" and together with Richard Maltby Jr. bring Puccini's "Madame Butterfly" into the modern world. 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. Director Meg Quinn-Dusault assembles a huge and multitalented cast to fill all these roles while musical director Shannon Manley not only taught these intricate melodies and harmonies to the cast but conducts a marvelous 12 piece orchestra while choreographer Kayla Armstrong not only taught the dances but stages these picture postcard moments with the performers. This fantastic show is a masterpiece with its soaring ballads, comic songs and gut wrenching dramatic acting and it is rewarded with a standing ovation at the curtain call.

Meg keeps the action flowing throughout the show with fast set changes and their use of a real helicopter in the second act. Her direction and blocking of her performers is done with ease and she brings out the best in them and casts each of the roles splendidly. Shannon's conducting of 64 musical numbers is amazing and she and the orchestra sound splendid as does the cast in this all sung epic pop opera like show. Some of the musical numbers sound like "Les Miz", "The King & I", "South Pacific", "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Evita". The standout group numbers are the girls songs "The Movie in My Mind" where they envision their escape from Vietnam, "The Wedding Song" where Chris and Kim pledge themselves to each other and two of 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 as the vocalists hold up photos of real orphans from Vietnam. Some of the dance numbers by Kayla include the sex shop dance by the girls who are dressed up like the girls from the Kit Kat Club in "Cabaret", the scary marching of the Viet Cong in "The Morning of the Dragon" and the patriotic type of dance, kickline and pinwheel in "The American Dream".

Leading this cast as Kim is Allison Sproul who has a powerhouse voice which fills the theater with her incredible soprano voice. Her many solos include "Unicorn", "Sun and Moon" reprise and "I Will Die for You" which she sings to her young son, leaving the audience in tears with its poignancy. Her other numbers include "Movie in My Mind", "Kim and Chris Dance", "This Money's Yours". "Sun & Moon" and "Last Night of the World", a gorgeous duet that stops the show, "Please", "I Still Believe", "Kim & Engineer" and "Paper Dragons". The biggest scene stealer in this show is Jay Silvi as the 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 supplies the needed comic moments to escape from the harsh reality of the war. The Engineer is reminiscent of the Emcee in "Cabaret". His voice is fantastic and his most impressive numbers are the well known vaudeville type song "The American Dream" where he sings and dances about finally escaping from Bangkok, "If You Want to Die in Bed" which vocally reminds you of Judas in "Superstar", "The Night of the Dragon" where he pleads for his life before the Viet Cong and his two duets with Kim, "Kim & Engineer" and "Paper Dragons". John Sparling is terrific as he plays Chris with the necessary anguish and pathos the part calls for. His tenor voice soars in his solo "Why, God, Why" where he wonders why he finally found the girl of his dreams in the hell of Vietnam which is reminiscent of "Younger Than Springtime" from "South Pacific" as well as in his duets with Kim "Sun and Moon" and "Last Night of the World" which displays the raw emotions of being in love but not being able to control your destiny. 4 year old Joshua Kue who plays Kim and Chris' son, Tam doesn't utter a word but captures your heart from start to finish.

Chris' best friend John is excellently played by Lee Cohen who makes this soldier buddy into a warm and caring friend, eventually helping Chris find his long lost son. He uses his strong tenor voice to sell the emotion packed "Bui-Doi" which opens the second act and has excellent harmonies by the men's chorus. also sings in many numbers including the helicopter escape, "Please" with Kim and "Ellen & Chris". Chris' American wife, Ellen is wonderfully played by Sarah Shear who conveys the confusion at Chris' bad dreams and behavior and her eventual realization of the horrors he suffered in Vietnam. Her topnotch voice is heard in the counterpoint song with Kim called "I Still Believe" and in the confrontation songs called "Kim & Ellen" and "Chris & Ellen".( I first reviewed Sarah as Millie in "Thoroughly Modern Millie" two years ago and didn't recognize her at first because she wears a red wig as Ellen.) Kim's cousin Thuy who she pledged to marry many years ago is played by Andrew Tessier who oozes the right amount of evilness as this repressive agent of the Viet Cong. Thuy is the villain of this show who tries to take Tam away from Kim and he gets to show off his wonderful voice in "Thuy's Intervention", "The Night of the Dragon", "The Coo Coo Princess'', "Thuy's Death" and "Thuy's Ghost". Atia DeRosa Gravely who looks sexy as hell, plays Gigi, one of the Engineer's girls and her dynamic soprano voice is heard in the opening montage, the wedding song and "The Movie in My Mind". 16 year old Johnny Fullerton sings the solo part of the helicopter escape number showing off his powerful tenor voice.(He played opposite Sarah Shear in "Millie") Kudos to the singing and dancing chorus, too. So for a terrific musical treat, be sure to catch "Miss Saigon'' by InCharge Productions.

"Glass Miss Saigon" (29 April - 2 May)
@ Sharon High School, 181 Pond Street, SHARON MA
1 (617)970-7267

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