After an absence of fifteen years, Cameron Mackintosh’s classic musical is back in the West End, where many believe that it should never have left in the first place. As this brand new 25th anniversary production is still currently in its preview period at the Prince Edward Theatre, people will have to wait until the official opening night on 21st May 2014 to find out if the critics have deemed this revival of an old favourite a hit or whether it’s the ‘fall of Saigon’, but that doesn’t stop preview audiences from airing their own views in the meantime.
Reviewing a new show during previews is a frowned upon practice, and for good reason. With the internet bringing people from all over the world together nowadays though, you’ll never be able to prevent fans from conversing with one another through forums and social networking sites to share their own unofficial ‘reviews’ with one another. It’s harmless perhaps, but also rather unfair to scrutinize each and every aspect of a show in this way before it’s fully prepared to be judged. It does offer an interesting insight however into the minds of the theatre-goer and allows others to share in their experiences. Time and again, it is the fans whose voices have sounded loudest up against those of the theatre critics, who have panned a show in their reviews only for it to go on to be a huge success thanks to the theatre-going public.
So what are people saying about Miss Saigon?
I purposefully try to avoid internet forums as I have found that many people like to use them as a platform to spout unfounded hate and be spiteful without just cause. With my curiosity peaked however, I ventured onto several musical theatre-based forums to see what the fans thought about Miss Saigon so far. There were a number of comments made which contributed no real value to discussion of the show, such as the age of actress Tamsin Caroll (Ellen), whom many have apparently deemed as ‘too old’ to play the wife of Chris. I was pleasantly surprised to find though that almost all the remarks posted were overwhelmingly positive and praising of the show.
Eighteen year old newcomer Eva Noblezada has been well received in her West End debut it seems, with compliments regarding her singing voice and her performance in the leading role of Kim flooding in from all directions. She however, has been usurped as the star of the show it appears by Jon Jon Briones as The Engineer. The actor, who first appeared as a member of the ensemble in the original production of Miss Saigon twenty-five years ago, has been proclaimed the highlight of the new production by almost every person on there who has seen it already. No cast member has been subjected to any form of abuse, or singled out as a ‘weak-link’ in the company chain thankfully, although it is apparent that certain performers are already favourites over others with the audience.
There’s a lot of excitement for the helicopter (yes, it’s back!), as well as a big thumbs-up for the new song which was added to the existing score, ‘Maybe’. The new staging of the show has also been highly praised by fans, as has the lighting. There have been lengthy discussions about the changes to the show which have come with this new production, but everyone has seemed very accepting and… well, nice! I won’t go into detail here as I wouldn’t want to give anything away to those who are waiting to see it for themselves.
A niggling point with some was a few issues with restricted view in the front row of the stalls with some scenes, although it has been added that Cameron Mackintosh has since been made aware of this and promised that it will be ‘fixed’.
Here are a couple of comments which appeared on musical theatre-based forums which seem to sum up the general feel of the fans who have already seen Miss Saigon in previews:
“This is not the 1990s Miss Saigon. It is a new production – with new lyrics stren [sic] throughout the score – new and even more dynamic staging. But, it still has the heart of Miss Saigon that makes it so beloved.”
“The new version in London is one of the most beautiful (and expensive!) musicals I have ever seen in the West End in a long time – the “ultimate” version of a wonderful classic.”
Over on Twitter meanwhile, more praise for the musical keeps coming in from the fans, as well as a few musical theatre folk too:
“Well @MissSaigonUK tonight was stunning! Such a beautiful production with an incredible cast. @EvaNoblezada is breathtaking as Kim!!” (Daniel Boys).
“As expected @MissSaigonUK was INCREDIBLE in every way! Absolute triumph! What an epic show!! Beautifully directed/performed…just stunning!” (Lily Frazer).
The original production of Miss Saigon stole the hearts of theatre lovers everywhere twenty-five years ago, and now, in 2014, the revived musical is set to steal them all over again. Miss Saigon has that rare ability to really touch the souls of the audience and whether that’s because of the story at the core of it, Schonberg and Boubil’s gorgeous score, or just a combination of everything, the point is that this show is the epitome of a ‘classic’ musical and anyone would be hard-pressed to find fault with it. I don’t think anyone needs to wait to hear the critics’ verdict before deciding whether to go and see it or not. Old or new, the same or changed…it doesn’t matter, it’s Miss Saigon! The heat is on alright, and Miss Saigon is cooking up a real treat in the West End kitchen.
By Julie Robinson @missjulie25
Tuesday 13th May 2014