Theatre Review: Miss Saigon

Hilarious and heartbreaking; Miss Saigon at Segerstrom Center for the Arts will take you on a visually stunning emotional journey to the end of the Vietnam War, and some of the lesser-known aftermath of America’s involvement in Vietnam.

Set in Saigon in 1975, we meet a boisterous club/brothel owner called “The Engineer” in his crudely built club called “Dreamland.” The Engineer has been profiting from the Americans who are in Vietnam at war, and the girls hope that they may meet one who will like them enough to take them back to America with them. Kim, a 17-year-old from the countryside, is the newest girl to join the Engineer’s harem. She is modest, still hurting from the destruction of her village, and is not interested in strutting her stuff for Americans. A group of American soldiers stops by Dreamland, knowing that they will not be in Vietnam much longer, to party with the girls. One soldier, Chris, is the only one not enjoying the experience. He seems completely uncomfortable with what is happening around him until he sees Kim and is immediately intrigued. He attempts to pay for her to leave Dreamland, and John ends up buying her for him, misunderstanding Chris’ intent. Ultimately, Chris falls in love with her but finds out they are leaving that week. The whirlwind set in motion by this one fateful night will take audiences on a rollercoaster of emotion through the shady and (nowadays) offensive world of The Engineer, Kim’s life in her village, and the romantic and heartbreaking journey of Kim and Chris.

Red Concepción really steals the show as the crass, smooth-talking, multi-lingual Engineer. His amazing delivery of one-liners, show-stopping numbers like ‘If You Want To Die In Bed,” and “The American Dream,” absolutely delight. Concepción really lends to the character with his insane level of sustained energy through some very difficult numbers and scenes. Important: Be mindful that this character was not written to appeal to some of the sensitivities of today’s culture. Emily Bautista (Kim) is a beautiful singer, gracing the stage with her amazingly powerful voice and heart-wrenching performance; I only cried twice! Anthony Festa (Chris) has such a clear voice and stage presence, it was no surprise to see that he has also toured with Wicked and Finding Neverland. Other stands out performances were Jinwoo Jung as Thuy, Christine Bunuan as Gigi, and Haven Je as Tam. The set design was just phenomenal; with relatively few actual set pieces, audiences will be transported all over the world in just a moment with the flip of a wall. The famous helicopter scene was amazing as hoped; utilizing projection, lighting, sound, and physical set work to create an amazing sensory experience. Conductor Will Curry did a great job with the orchestration, especially working with all the nuance of The Engineer.

I came to this show with no fond memory of it, having seen it in my younger years and not found it memorable. I was unsure what to expect of this performance despite having technically seen it before. The sheer magnitude of this performance completely took me by surprise. I laughed, I cried, I was a bit uncomfortable. I highly recommend going to see Cameron Mackintosh’s tour of Boublil and Schönberg’s Miss Saigon.

Tickets to MISS SAIGON start at $26 and are available for purchase at SCFTA.org, by calling (714) 556-2787 and at the Box Office at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa. Performs until Oct 13, 2019.

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