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MISS SAIGON AT THE SHEFFIELD CRUCIBLE { ★★★★.5 }

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

AD | Gifted ticket for an honest and unbiased review


Miss Saigon has the following triggers and content warnings:

TW: Flashing lights, (not strobe), Haze, Sudden Loud Sounds, Gunshots, Smoking on stage

CW: Language and Themes of Adult Nature with also moments that some people might find upsetting and shocking.


 


Credit: Johan Persson

Miss Saigon, a musical that quite a lot people know and love returns, but not in the 2014 West End revival form, but in a first ever non-replica form and first regional production of the show.


Based on Giacomo Puccini's opera, Madame Butterfly, Miss Saigon is set later in the Vietnam war, and follows an American GI, Chris, and Kim, a Vietnamese bar girl, who fall in love at the Dreamland Night club. But when Saigon falls apart and everything changes, both are split and Kim decides to go on a journey to find him.


I have seen Miss Saigon before in its 2014 form, and I thought that was an epic production. Going in to see this show knowing the songs, and quite a bit of story (it has been a few years since I’ve seen it). My worries was that with the Crucible Theatre being a thrust stage, how was Sheffield Crucible going to bring this to life.


This non-replica production of Boublil and Schönberg’s musical is co-directed by Robert Hastie and Anthony Lau and Choreography by Jade Hackett.


The show takes on many themes like love, war, loss and also the consequences of war. This show really takes the audience through some very hard emotions and how they portray this, really is powerful.


The show runs for 2 hours and 45 minutes including an interval. Like always, my reviews are 100% honest and I will always justify my ratings, thoughts and feelings, always giving constructive feedback and my opinions are my own.


Credit: Johan Persson

 


Director’s Hastie and Lau have created a very powerful story through their work, they have done a remarkable job. They make moments feel more personal, and get the audience to engage more, which makes you feel connected to the characters throughout the show. This is shown during act 2 in the song “Bui Doi”, changing the direction of the song from a TV broadcast to a small meeting. By changing the perspective of this you see and feel the songs differently, creating a more personal interaction on a very important subject matter and letting you engage and anticipate what’s to come next. Another area which Robert and Anthony have directed really well is the change of the point of view when watching the show.


This is shown in various moments in the show, like in the opening number “The Heat Is on in Saigon”, when we are being introduced to girls in “Dreamland”, we see a lit up podium with the GI’s surrounding it as if they are watching the girls, but on stage we have the girls stood around the edge with their backs to the GI’s singing towards the audience, giving us the point of view from the GI’s. This is a great piece of direction as you can choose, as the audience, who you are focusing on throughout the song. During the final few moments of act 1 they have created an edge of your seat moment, all I can say here is that the moments are full on, and the best way of describing this is it is a wide open mouth moment, having the ensemble use physicality phenomenally well. Robert and Anthony create intense but fresh direction, they take a well known and powerful musical and flip it on its head reimagining the show completely and they do this exceedingly well.


Boublil and Schönberg’s book is still emotional and brilliant. This production has one big change, The Engineer, who traditionally in the original and previous productions, is played by a man. In the new production The Engineer is played by a woman for the very first time. This doesn't change the story at all, yes a few lines have been adapted, but with very bold and powerful direction, The Engineer delivers a line in “Movie in my Mind”, which I actually felt was more suited to the backstory of the character, and it sets up The Engineers objective to get out of Saigon, which brought to life how the character is imagining this through the lyrics in the song.


Jade Hacketts Choreography is all-out and high-powered from start to finish, with it making you sit on the edge of your seat during “The Morning of the Dragon”. Then the choreography changes quite dramatically within “The American Dream” making this a fun, smiley number. Jade really gets the audience's attention and also fills the stage with fearless and gutsy choreography which is presented perfectly by the cast.



 

Credit: Johan Persson

The cast, who are all making their Sheffield Theatres debut, bring this story to life with get-up-and-go energy from start to finish. This cast makes an impact on you as soon as it begins, they all bring something different and bring the words of the page to life incredibly well.


Joanna Ampil, who has previously been in Miss Saigon, steps into the shoes of The Engineer. Joanna makes history by being the first woman to play this role and let’s just say Joanna is outstanding. Joanna takes The Engineer and the character's objective and runs with it, using these objectives to her advantage, this creates new actions to get what the character wants. Joanna also battles with obstacles in the characters way well, her performance was showstopping and especially her stand out performance of “The American Dream”, bringing comedy, power and also making history, Joanna’s take on The Engineer is a joy to watch.


Jessica Lee shines as Kim, having beautiful vocals and amazing characterisation. Jessica shows a mothering nature to her character's son Tam, that really breaks your heart at the end, as Jessica shows that she wants the best for her son. Jessica has great chemistry with Christian Maynard, who plays Chris, with both vocals working so well together. Vocally Jessica's performance of “I still believe” was stunning and the audience felt every word. Jessica's version of Kim is so pure and raw and is truly believable.


Christian Maynard plays Chris, Christian gives a brilliant performance, his version of “Why God, Why” is rich and vocally strong, he had me engaged throughout the show, for me making Chris a very engaging character. Christian gives emotion and works brilliantly with Shanay Holmes, character wise Christian puts himself into the characters shoes and it really shows, Christian excels on stage and delivers a great performance.


 

Designer Ben Stones gives a grey expandable and adaptable set, which is an effective bit of design with a moveable staircase, which could either be leading to hidden openable doors, or creating the feeling of taking off in a helicopter. The set isn’t overly complicated, making the audience focus more on the action on stage. As the previous production felt there was so much to look at to create the sense of location, but this production has dialled back the staging to create a setting for the show to speak for itself.


Ben's design goes well with Andrzej Goulding's video and animation, Goulding uses video effectively and also ties nicely to the lighting by Jessica Hung Han Yun leaving your mouth wide open by work created.


This highly anticipated Miss Saigon production is definitely impressive. It's bold, exciting and captivating from start to finish. Sheffield Theatres has done it yet again, creating theatre that will leave you feeling wow, last night proved it as there was a standing ovation. For me I loved this production and it is probably my favourite. It's a phenomenal theatrical experience, go see Miss Saigon at the Sheffield Crucible now. You won’t want to miss it.



Credit: Johan Persson


 

Important show info


Miss Saigon

Saturday 8th July - 19th August

Sheffield Crucible

2 hours and 45 minutes

age: 12+



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