The Arts Club Theatre Company

Miss Saigon

Dates 19 May 17 July 2005 Venue Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage

Reviewer Jane Penistan


 

Music Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, with reorchestration and keyboard programming by Bruce Kellett

Lyrics Richard Maltby, Jr. and Alain Boublil


Musical Direction Bruce Kellett Choreography Valerie Easton


John Mann as Engineer
John Mann as the Engineer

Miss Saigon is a twentieth century presentation of the misfortunes of war. As always it is the women who suffer unnoticed while the men get the medals and accolades. The script also borrows from and parallels Puccini's 1904 opera, Madama Butterfly.

The scene shifts between the years 1975 and 1978 and from Saigon (Ho Chi Min City), to Atlanta, to Bangkok. Lest the audience get lost in these transitions, dates and locations are projected onto the set.

A contest for the title of "Miss Saigon" is taking place in a sleazy nightclub where American marines are out for an evening's entertainment. Here the Engineer arranges partners for their pleasure. Among the competing girls are shy newcomer Kim, who is immediately noticed by Chris, one of the American customers. Another comrade, John, buys Chris a present, a night with Kim. The inevitable romance and tragic consequences ensue.

As the greedy, manipulating manager of the Dreamland Nightclub, John Mann is a dominating, bully with more dollars, come as they may, his aim in life. He ultimately redeems himself in his care of Kim and her child, in the final scenes. This is a very strong, well acted and well sung performance.

The gentle, loving Kim is beautifully sung by Nena Lazo. Jonathan Winsby is the charming two-timer. Chris, while Jayme Armstrong is his American wife Ellen. Matt Palmer is his buddy John. Broderick Chow is the menacing Thuy, who has been promised Kim as his bride. He becomes a powerful communist commissar, and after the Americans have bailed out, demands that the Engineer find Kim and hand her over to him.


 

 

w
w
w
.
r
e
v
i
e
w
V
a
n
c
o
u
v
e
r
.
o
r
g

Meanwhile in the US, charitable organizations are setting up facilities for orphans of American servicemen. John is now instrumental in discovering that Kim and her son Tam are alive and living in Vietnam, but Thuy also finds Kim with Tam and threatens forced marriage or possession of Tam. Kim shoots Thuy. She must now escape to America, so seeks help from the Engineer. His livelihood now gone, he has retrieved his hidden ill-gotten gains, intending to emigrate to America . As Tam has an American father, he alone may legally seek refuge there. They set off and arrive in Bangkok . Here they meet Chris, Ellen, and John, on their way to find Kim and Tam. Chris and Ellen want to adopt Tam to ensure his future. Unable to face a lonely life, Kim shoots herself.

Winsby and Lazo
Jonathan Winsby & Nena Lazo

As always with Stanley musicals the chorus work is excellent, both the dancing and singing being of a high standard. The orchestra, under the talented Bruce Kellett, supports both well. In its own right it demonstrates its power and musicality. The sets are changed swiftly and smoothly, and the costumes are well designed and appropriate, particularly those in the "Miss Saigon" contest.

There are some spectacular moments in this production. The colourful, gymnastic "Lion Dance" is the highlight of the first act, danced by Alfred Liu and Ben Ngu. In the second act, the eerie nighttime helicopter evacuation of U.S. military from Vietnam, leaving the guarded local refugees stranded, is breathtaking and heartbreaking.

2005 Jane Penistan

home