Miss Saigon

St James Theatre 2, Wellington

09/04/2010 - 17/04/2010

Production Details

Miss Saigon, the masterpiece follow up to Claude-Michel Schonberg’s and Alain Boublil’s Les Miserables, is coming to the St James Theatre in Wellington for the very first time in April 2010.

A riveting love story, the long running Broadway and West End blockbuster, is based on the timeless Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.

Opening in Saigon amidst the turmoil of the last days of the Vietnam War, an American GI and a Vietnamese girl fall in love, only to be separated during the dramatic fall of Saigon. Their struggle to find each other over the ensuing years ends in tragedy for her and a fighting chance for the child he never knew he had.

Raw and uncompromising, Miss Saigon is an intensely personal story of the losses and sacrifices made in a world gone mad.

Highlights of the show include the evacuation of the last Americans in Saigon from the Embassy roof by helicopter while a crowd of abandoned Vietnamese scream their despair, the victory parade of the new communist regime and Saigon’s frenzied night club scene on what is musically described as The Last Night of The World.

Miss Saigon portrays the harsh realities and the tender emotions of war and its consequences, and parental guidance is recommended.

The Dominion Post Season of
Miss Saigon
St. James Theatre, Wellington,
April 8 – 24, 2010.
All bookings through Ticketek 04 384 3840 or www.ticketek.co.nz

– Ivy Rose Padilla
Chris - Matthew Pike
John – Chris Crowe
The Engineer – Waylon Edwards
Ellen – Gemma Boyle

Executive Producer Michael Highsted
Wardrobe Manager Terry Guillemot
Stage Manager Keri Mills

Originally Produced on the stage by CAMERON MACKINTOSH
MISS SAIGON is presented through special arrangement with Cameron Mackintosh Limited, Music Theatre International (NY) and Hal Leonard Australia.   

Challenges met with alacrity

Review by John Smythe 16th Apr 2010

Having at last caught up with Miss Saigon I feel compelled to add my own accolade to the critical record. It is another astonishingly accomplished production from Wellington Musical Theatre.

The strong and compelling story captures a key moral aspect of the Vietnam war: the issue of children fathered by American servicemen. The staging brilliantly evokes Saigon, Bangkok and middle America. Musically it is superbly served by the Vector Wellington Orchestra under the baton of Michael Nicholas Williams and the entire cast, directed by Grant Meese.

Ivy Rose Padilla makes an astounding debut as Kim, living every emotional moment with great authenticity. Matthew Pike’s Chris fully personifies the emotional naivety of a young soldier. Bothe he and Kim compel our empathy as they confront their moral dilemmas.

As John, Chris Crowe offers as strong a moral anchor as an American soldier in that appalling war can hope to muster. The all male a cappella opening to Act Two, ‘Bui Doi’, led by John, is unforgettable.

In total contrast character-wise, Waylon Edwards’ The Engineer perfectly captures the moral corruption endemic in occupied states. His evocation of ‘The American Dream’ is another high point, as is the stunning staging with red flags and a dragon after the fall on Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City (choreographer Leigh Evans).

Gemma Boyle (Emma) and David Hoskins (Thuy) complete the impeccable line up of principles – along with the little boy, Tam (shared by three lads) – and the hard-working Company once more impresses hugely with their singing, dancing and acting skills.

Special mention to the follow-spot operators, Adam Harrison and Raewyn Mills, who (on Thursday night anyway) flawlessly held the principles in pinspots throughout, amid Paul O’Brien’s excellent lighting design.

I continue to be amazed at Wellington Musical Theatre’s capacity to stage works of this scale. The many challenges of Miss Saigon are met with alacrity.
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Bob April 16th, 2010

The performance was stunning and moving.  I first saw it in Sydney in the 90's - maybe it was the large theatre and I could not see the stage well or that I did not appreciate the story line at the time - but the Wellington performance was much more memorable.  Ivy as the central character was sensational.   In the 90's, the Wellington Operatic Society (at the time) brought a fantastic production of Les Mis to Wellington - another class Act and I hope to see more Broadway productions in future.  Having the most elaborate sets is not as important as having performers who can sing and move the audience like the Miss Saigon Wellington cast.

Lou April 16th, 2010

 I feel like I'm taking crazy pills - the production I saw does not at all match up with the reviews I am reading. The chorus was far too small to fulfil the scale of the big numbers required (in particular: the farce of the fall of Saigon where 20 chorus members moved 3 bits of fence about in compensation for any real drama and hysteria), the choreography and directing was clunky and totally out of synch with what was going on (one instance: the two romantic leads singing the climactic romantic lyric "so stay with me and hold me tight and dance like it's the last night of the world" while sitting side-by-side on a step) - not to mention how utterly horrifying it is to see one of the few big specifically Asian roles of musical theatre (Thuy) being played by a pakeha.

Perhaps my expectations are too high from being overseas for a number of years and for having cherished the musical since its debut on CD, but to me the St James' Miss Saigon was well below standard, lacking the imagination and core casting to overcome its adaptation to a stage and scale smaller than that for which it was designed.

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Harmonious rendition of tensions

Review by Michael Wray 10th Apr 2010

Based on Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Miss Saigon premiered 21 years ago. It’s easy to see the reasons for the show’s longevity and appeal.

In Saigon, American marines are letting off steam. The US involvement in Vietnam is drawing to a close and the soldiers are enjoying themselves in a club in the Saigon red light district. A ‘Pretty Woman’ scenario is soon established when jaded GI Chris falls for new girl Kim.

The less than willing Kim appears to have been taken from her village and enlisted as a prostitute with the French-Vietnamese pimp known as The Engineer. So when Kim falls for Chris too, the phrase ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ flashes through my mind. And for all his protests, Chris doesn’t seem to put up too much protest about buying this seventeen year old virgin.

The storyline soon moves into darker and more complicated territory, particularly in the second act, from which there is a genuine “what if” sense of tension created.

The lead performers are harmoniously matched. Ivy Rose Padilla as Kim, and Matthew Pike as Chris, are particularly good. The same is true of Gemma Boyle as Ellen and Chris Crowe as John. Waylon Edwards is a little harsh as The Engineer, but it is difficult to know whether this is his singing style or if he has been directed to deliver his vocals in a more aggressive fashion.

The cast are well directed and choreographed by, respectively, Grant Messe and Leigh Evans. It’s a large cast and the volume provides a great visual texture for the large numbers. The music is delivered by the Vector Wellington Orchestra with direction from Michael Nicholas Williams.

From the simple combination of elegance and function in the authentically styled wooden buildings, to the wow factor produced by the helicopter, the sets are very impressive. The set manages to bring in several surprises, provoking an audible “ooh” from the audience on numerous occasions. Wellington set designer John Hodgkins is credited with Additional Set Design and it would be interesting to know how much of the set design is predefined and how much is his original work.

Watching a show of this magnitude and quality so soon after the International Arts Festival, one might be tempted to assume this was an overseas show being hosted at the St James Theatre. Not so – the cast and crew are all either from or have settled in New Zealand. This is a local production of a globally successful blockbuster with top production values.
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Blockbuster a bit hit and miss

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 10th Apr 2010

After successfully staging Les Miserables a few years ago Wellington Musical Theatre has triumphed with the staging of another multi-million-dollar-blockbusting-award-winning-mega-hit-sung-through pop opera.

Miss Saigon is a bit of a hybrid.It grew out of a mix of Pierre Loti’s Madame Chrysantheme, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and a story by John Luther Long which David Belasco turned into a melodrama, Madame Butterfly, in 1900. The melodrama is still there.

But it would appear that the hybrid is more than just East meets West as seen by Western romantics but it is also a Broadway hybrid with songs and scenes reminiscent of Oliver! amongst others but  mainly becausethe most interesting character in the show, Engineer (Waylon Edwards),  is remarkably like the sleazy Emcee in Cabaret.

His final big number, American Dream, though lacking the razor sharp power of the Emcee’s songs in Cabaret is still a good old-fashioned musical number instead of the repetitive pop opera music that pervades Miss Saigon.

Schonberg’s overpowering music inflates everything into portentous arias which all end with thumping great climactic chords and long-held notes that become tiring after a while. And so scenes that need quiet and true emotional currents are drowned out by very loud music.

And there are scenes that would be laughed at if they were played in a spoof of Victorian melodrama, while the syrupy lyrics were best described in the satirical Forbidden Broadway in its take-off of a song from Miss Saigon, ‘You are Hallmark/I postcard.’

However, the staging of the climactic helicopter rescue at the U.S. Embassy is excitingly done as is the dragon dance and the military precision of the North Vietnamese soldiers. And the performances, when not going over the top because of the demands of the music are well done, particularly Matthew Pike’s likeable Chris and Ivy Rose Padilla’s appealing Kim who avoids playing her as a poor pathetic waif but makes her a strong woman surviving in a terrible war until her son is taken away from her.

This Miss Saigon is magnificently staged, well performed, but it’s a pity about the music which doesn’t have anything like the appeal of the stirring songs that enlivened Les Miserables.
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