I’m just going to say it straight up, no bullshit. Miss Saigon is the best musical production I have ever seen! Sure, I may not be hugely versed in musicals, maybe seeing a dozen or so over the last couple of years, but this production was just on a whole other level.
With music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyrics by Alain Boublil and Richard Maltby Jr., book by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, and direction by Laurence Connor, GWB Entertainment’s 2024 production of Miss Saigon transports theatre goers back to the mid-70s during the chaotic end of the Vietnam War.
The stage of Adelaide’s Festival Theatre has been transformed into a Vietnamese village via the use of several elaborate set pieces which change multiple times during the show to create different scenes. I was captivated by the amount of detail in these sets and the incredible amount of time that must have been put into making them. While they look amazing, they’re also incredibly functional too, allowing different set pieces to be used for different purposes. Production designers Matt Kinley, Totie Driver and their crew should be applauded for these amazing sets they have created.
And also, I need to mention the helicopter. It blew my mind and I have no idea how they could pull that off on stage. Wow!
It’s in the sleazy yet glitzy Vietnamese bar named ‘Dreamland’, a safe haven for American GIs to blow off steam and have a good time, that we meet the leads of the show. Owner, barman and pimp Tran Van Dinh aka. The Engineer is a charismatic and self-centred man focused on making money, and later escaping Vietnam. He finds himself some ‘fresh meat’ in the form of 17 year old girl Kim, who’s village is blasted to pieces and her family lost.
On the night of her arrival at Dreamland, Kim meets Chris Scott, an American soldier, and a swift romance ensues, leading to the couple getting married in a matter of days. However, when Saigon falls and the American military must retreat, confusion and circumstance leads to the hopeless lovers being separated as Chris returns to America.
Miss Saigon is a love story at its core between two passionate lovers that struggle for resolve and long for hope to be reunited after several years apart. While not specifically based on a true story, it is easy to see that it could be, and it is incredibly emotional and tragic. It’ll no doubt leave so many with a broken heart.
Lewis Francis stars as fellow GI John, best work friend of Chris. Lewis is bold and confident with an incredible voice to boot which shines in ‘Bui Doi’! Well versed theatre actress Kimberly Hodgson takes the role of Gigi, The Engineer’s most prized bargirl, and seems to be having an absolute blast on stage. Hogdson is an amazing dancer, vocalist, is incredibly talented, beautiful and sexy, and is perfectly cast in this role. Her stage presence is particularly captivating during ‘The Movie in My Mind’.
Laurence Mossman who plays Thuy, Kim’s arranged marriage husband. Mossman provides audiences with an impressively handsome, heartfelt yet dark character fuelled by his love and obligation for Kim, with tragic consequences.
19-year-old Abigail Adriano is a phenomenal talent, starring as Kim. Her performance is absolutely heart wrenching and emotional to witness, bringing many to tears (including myself) several times throughout the production. With Nigel Huckle’s portrayal of Chris, alongside his insane vocals, the love, passion and chemistry of the couple feels authentic and tangible throughout their numbers ‘Sun and Moon’ and ‘The Last Night of the World’, making your heart swoon even more!
Adriano’s performance as Kim is only rivalled by that of Seann Miley Moore as The Engineer, but their roles are complete opposites! Seann is brimming with confidence and flamboyant, adding great comedic relief to a pretty heavy story. They ooze charisma and leave you brimming with a smile, especially during their show stopping performance of ‘The American Dream’. For someone who should be the villain of the show, they do an incredible job of being infectiously lovable!
This production wouldn’t be complete without its incredible orchestra. Lead by conductor and musical director Geoffrey Castles, the orchestra delivers an outstanding performance, and do so without fail every night. I loved that the music and the songs have Asian sounds with the consistent use of Asian flutes and percussion instruments, making for a much more authentic sound, setting and experience.
Summed up, Miss Saigon is a mind-blowing remarkable must-see exhibition of talent, in many forms. You’ll be taken on a rollercoaster of emotions and will hop off with your jaw on the floor. I thoroughly loved this show, and I’d happily attend again. I’ve never said that before, so that says something!
Miss Saigon’s strictly limited 2024 Adelaide season at Adelaide Festival Centre ends February 3rd.
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Photography by Daniel Boud.