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REVIEW: Evocative, spectacular ‘Miss Saigon’

REVIEW: Evocative, spectacular ‘Miss Saigon’

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Easily one of the best touring productions that have come by our shores.

Twenty-four years since it first came to town, Miss Saigon is once again back in Manila and if the standing ovation during the run’s gala night was anything to go by, the Filipino audiences’ adulation for this particular musical has not tapered in the slightest.

Filipinos have an affinity for this show, thanks in large part for its propensity to cast performers of Filipino descent in key roles, including of course Lea Salonga’s Tony-winning performance as the original Kim on Broadway. The Australian tour currently at The Theatre at Solaire is similarly chock-full of Filipinos, including home-grown talent Kiara Dario in the role of Gigi.

Affinity can only get you so far, of course. Fortunately, the production in and of itself is, simply put, incredible. What you’ll witness is a very passionate and evocative love story with beautiful music, arresting stagecraft, and intense performances that make it well worth your time and money.

Conceived by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg—the minds behind Les Misérables—audiences are transported to the tumultuous Vietnam War in the 70s in Miss Saigon. It tells the heartrending story of Kim (Abigail Adriano), an orphaned Vietnamese girl, whose life takes a turn when she becomes a nightclub prostitute in Dreamland, managed by The Engineer (Seann Miley Moore). A chance encounter with an American GI, Chris (Nigel Huckle), sparks a whirlwind romance, setting the stage for a poignant exploration of love’s boundless capacity and the extreme lengths one will go to preserve it.

There’s an epic quality to this production (directed by Laurence Connor), with its big set pieces, lush backdrops, and striking lighting that make nearly every scene and number utterly captivating. Songs like “Last Night of the World” where the set gradually fades away until Kim and Chris are the only two left, or “This is the Hour” where Kim clings to Thuy as her toddler looks at them flanked by a chorus of Vietnamese soldiers are some of the show’s early and impactful highlights. There’s also no shortage of stage magic here, which includes a life-sized helicopter descending from above in act two. Similarly visually grand was the scene with Bangkok’s red light district coming alive and the other Engineer-centric song “The American Dream” full of American razzmatazz that Seann Miley Moore made as his own playground.

Abigail Adriano as Kim and Nigel Huckle as Chris; Photo Credit: Daniel Boud

Adding to the scale and grandiosity of the proceedings are the show’s central performances. Abigail Adriano is an intense Kim. Her portrayal embodies a fervent, all-consuming way that she loves first Chris and then her son. There’s a verve to her that brings home Kim’s youth and the way she’s had to grow up due to her circumstances. This intensity is matched by Nigel Huckle who plays Chris; their chemistry and mutual passion are so convincing that it immerses the audience completely in their story despite its very quick escalation.

Not at all to be outshone is Seann Miley Moore who gives such an indelible performance as The Engineer that you almost can’t imagine the iconic character played any other way. His work here is that of an actor truly making something their own. Unapologetically and unashamedly queer, it’s superbly a big performance that astoundingly only adds to the character’s humanity. This Engineer is not so much, well, an engineer of opportunities for himself, but one of a similar boat to Kim and is similarly prepared to do what it takes to survive.

It is due to these central performances and the specificity and depth they brought to their characters that the show is able to transcend stereotypical portrayals of war and outdated Asian narratives that may have once plagued the material. In the hands of Moore, Adriano, and Huckle, these characters are complex and individual. 

While the war itself may have been relegated as a backdrop to intensify their individual struggles, the show is most successful not in the thought that war persists forty years after this particular war being portrayed on stage, but when it leans into themes of love and survival. After all, what is more evergreen than that?

Easily one of the best touring productions that have come by our shores, Miss Saigon will give you everything you’re looking for in a big commercial musical–and then some.


Tickets: Php 2,962.40 – Php 8,464.00
Show Dates: March 23 to May 12
Venue: The Theatre at Solaire
Running Time: approx. 2 hrs and 30 mins (w/ 15 min intermission)
Credits: Claude-Michel Schonberg (music), Richard Maltby Jr. (lyrics), Alain Boublil (lyrics), Michael Mahler (lyrics), Laurence Connor (director), Bob Avian (musical staging), Geoffrey Garratt (choreography), Totie Driver (production design), Matt Kinley (production design), Andreane Neofitou (costume design), Bruno Poet (lighting design), Luke Halls (projections), Mick Potter (sound design), William David Brohn (orchestrations), Jean-Pierre Van Der Spuy (director of Asian tour production)
Cast: Abigail Adriano, Seann Miley Moore, Nigel Hucke, Laurence Mossman, Sarah Morrison, Lewis Francis, Kiara Dario, Michael Boyle, Carlo Boumouglbay, Ellie Chan, Shannon Cheong, Celine Cleveland, David Duketis, Natasha Dumlao, Genila Enriquez, Sara Haruta, Leyton Holmes, Jiho Hwang, Emily Huynh, Mikaila Imaguchi, Patrick Jeremy, Hamish Johnston, Nicholas Kong, Vi Lam, Winchester Lopez, Robbie Mejica, Bailey Nathan-Park, Tetsuya Okubo, Atsushi Okumura, David Ouch, Tony Oxybel, Paloma Renouf, Annabelle Rosewarne, Jack Connor Rowan, Trevor Santos, Louis Stockil, Asmara Soekotjo, Tamsyn Thomas, Brad Veitch, Aday Velasco, Louisa Vilinne, Sam Ward
Company: GMG Productions

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