This magnificent production is a mindblower. As a work of its time, although written and first performed in 1989, it is set in a context of the horrors of the American Vietnam war in the 1970s. While the particular memories of this horrible time have faded for many, and were beyond the lifetime of more of the current audience, all generations in attendance were swept away by the intensity, drama, passionate emotionality and sheer precision of this flawless performance.
Although the dreadfulness and terrors of this context are half a century ago, they are frighteningly relevant today, in other countries, such as Ukraine, Gaza, Israel, Lebanon, Myanmar, and others, as China, Russia and the US flex their military muscles and jostle for positions of dominance.
In this context, we are treated to a brilliant display of the seamy side of life in Saigon, with writhing, scantily clad bodies, oozing sexuality and sensual seductiveness, at the behest of corrupt and merciless men who profit from exploiting the women who are forced to sell their bodies in order to survive. We meet American G.I.’s on leave, participating in the exploitation and corruption. In particular we meet Chris (Nigel Huckle of the splendid and powerful voice) – sad and anxiously on the edge of this scene. We meet Kim, (superbly played by Abigail Adriano) reticently forced into the sex cesspool. Adriano seems almost born for this role, which she executes with a glorious voice and an astounding capacity for emotion and pathos. These two fall passionately in love, and this gives rise to the rest of this tragic, heart rending and all-too-possible story.
We also meet The Engineer, a role which Seann Miley Moore fills to overflowing, as a wonderfully self-centred, ruthless sleazebag of a pimp – with principle, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the possibility of his making a buck: a first class piece of casting by Australian Production Director Jean-Pierre Van Der Spuy. One other minor role deserves a mention from among the large and excellent cast: Kerry-Anne Greenland as the unfortunate Ellen commands this role with a fine presence and a great voice.
This entire cast is superb, and very large. The choreography/musical staging (Bob Avian) is amazingly precisely executed by the excellent chorus. While most scenes are appropriately dark, the lighting is brilliantly conceived (Bruno Poet), and implemented with precision and subtlety by an expert team. The sets (Matt Kinley and Totie Driver) are complex, detailed and brilliantly atmospheric. And the helicopter scene is simply a triumph of modern theatre. Central to the entire performance, the first-class orchestra, under the direction of Geoffrey Castles, is ever present, and always appropriate, both in the subtlest and most passionate solos, as well as the loud, fast paced, intense showstopping numbers, showing great respect for and understanding of the fabulous and complex music by Claude-Michel Schönberg.
Miss Saigon may be a musical of its particular time, but when it is performed with such power, passion, and precision, sheer talent and musicality, it transcends any period and will have a long life.
Cameron Mackintosh, GWB Entertainment, and Opera Australia present
music Claude-Michel Schönberg | lyrics Richard Maltby Jr. and Alain Boublil, adapted from original French lyrics by Alain Boublil | additional lyrics Michael Mahler
Director Laurence Connor
Production Direction (Australia) Jean Pierre Van Der Spuy
Venue: Adelaide Festival Theatre SA
Dates: From January 2, 2024