Expectation is a double-edged sword; a single swing can leave you a cut you will either wear with pride, or carry as a scar of regret and disappointment. High expectations are particularly perilous as too often they fail to be met.
A few months ago, I wrote an article about the shows a musical theatre fan is expected to have seen, but hasn’t. There’s a million reasons why not. Timing and age, for example, can be a huge factor, as a ‘classic’ musical you were too young to see the last time it was in town may not have been staged since. Financial circumstances and location limitations can also play a part, as can the simple excuse that you just haven’t gotten around to it yet. These individual reasons were the collective explanation for my ‘show I should have seen but haven’t’: Miss Saigon.
As I wrote back then, Schonberg and Boublil’s other smash hit musical had been on my list of shows to see for years. The original production closed in 1999 when I was fifteen, an age when my priorities involved friends, boys and staying ‘in fashion’ – and not necessarily in that order. Theatre, which later came to form a big part of my life, wasn’t even a blip on my radar at that time, so I doubt I was even aware that it was running, never mind that I should probably go and see it before it closed.
How things change. Fast forward another fifteen years and the newly-returned Miss Saigon is probably the show I most want to see, having so carelessly missed it the first time around. When booking first opens though, I just don’t have the money spare to buy tickets there and then. So I wait. When press night comes around, I’m not high up enough on the theatrical food chain (chorus line?) to get an invite to review. So I wait. And I wait. And I wait. As time goes on, I keep saying that I really must get around to seeing it. But I don’t. And then all too soon the final closing date is announced and I’m suddenly aware of the tick tick tick of a countdown clock, and the very real chance that I may once again miss my shot to see this show.
I’m pleased to tell you that this story has a happy ending however, as my wonderful mother became the heroine of the tale when she delivered me the best Christmas present ever in the form of tickets to Miss Saigon.
As I said earlier though, high expectations can sometimes lead to the longest of falls, and I was praying that after so many years of waiting, it would live up to my high expectation.
That I would love the show itself went without saying. Miss Saigon, though I’d never seen it staged before last night, wasn’t new to me as I’d listened to the original cast recording many times previously and knew of the show’s plotline, along with such iconic aspects of the production as the helicopter. Miss Saigon appeals to my sense of what a perfect musical is, in respect to it being a big, epic melodrama, not unlike Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera. I embrace all the different types of musicals, but it’s the ones that pack a powerful emotional punch to the heart that I hold there the closest. The certainty that I would love it was also what worried me however, as I just didn’t know if the reality of the staged production could ever be as good as what I’d imagined. I was at last night’s performance (Monday 1st Feb) though and am beyond happy to say that it not only lived up to, but far exceeded any expectations I had.
I’m not going to write up a review of the show here. The beauty of the experience was that for the first time in a long time, I was able to close my critic’s eye and just watch the show as a fan in the audience, which becomes harder to do the more you review. It didn’t matter which cast members were on or not as on this occasion, I was there purely for the show itself. As it turned out we were fortunate to have most of the principal line-up on that night, but regardless, the performance given by alternate Christian Rey Marbella as The Engineer was superb and he easily got the biggest applause of the night.
Miss Saigon is a gripping whirl of colour and spectacle, and gut-wrenchingly heartfelt performances from an outstanding talented cast. Experienced from the middle of the front row of the stalls too, it was impossible to look away from the stage or be distracted for a single second, and I could probably go back every night til it closes and still find something new in it every time. It caught me with those very first few notes, and kept me on hook right to the very end. I can honestly say that I loved everything about Miss Saigon.
Oh and by the way, the little boy playing Tam at last night’s performance was so damn adorable that the show should really carry a health warning with it as I wanted to take him home and cuddle him until my arms fell off! Seriously Miss Saigon, don’t ever sell Angelina Jolie a ticket…
All too often we dare to hope, only to be left disappointed. We sometimes dream of something for years, and then find that when we do finally get it, it just wasn’t worth the wait. This is one of those wonderful moments though in which the reality was better than the dream, and every one of those years I waited was worth it. I have finally taken Miss Saigon off of my ‘To See’ list and now it has become another treasured memory to add to the many more I already have.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Tuesday 2nd February 2016