Spectacular Miss Saigon lands back in the West End
Laurence Connor's hotly anticipated West End revival of Boublil and Schonberg's Vietnam War-set musical opened to press at the Prince Edward Theatre last night
…Laurence Connor's competent revival presses most of the right buttons… In one area, though, it is its equal [to the original production]: in the casting of 18 year-old Eva Noblezada… as Kim, whose astonishing voice is flawless in a wide register and whose acting is assured and touching… There's no real attempt to break the mould… Chris, muscularly sung but woodenly acted by Alistair Brammer; the show first takes off when Kim duets with his wife back home, Tamsin Carroll's full-voiced Ellen… Jon Jon Briones delivers the showstopper well enough… There was a degree of snivelling around me in the last scene; I was too busy marvelling at the simplicity and grace of Noblezada's performance to join in…
…the trick of the show, and of this superbly slick, powerfully acted and splendidly sung revival, is that while you are watching it, it often feels like the greatest musical you have ever seen… The score, with its great surging power ballads, has undoubted heft… The 18-year-old Eva Noblezada is extraordinarily vulnerable and touching as Kim, and her raw, deeply felt performance and soaring voice lend the show its heart… Alistair Brammer gives a powerful performance as her beloved Chris, though fails to generate much warmth, while Jon Jon Briones is memorably seedy as the unscrupulous Engineer… Laurence Connor's production has a cinematic fluency and he keeps the dramatic tension simmering throughout. For all its many merits, however, I find it easier to admire Miss Saigon than to love it.
...seeing the show for the first time in a quarter of a century, I was more struck by its satirical edge than its emotional power… best embodied by the character of the Engineer… Jon Jon Briones makes him an even grubbier, sleazier figure… If I was less moved by the love story, it was no fault of the actors but of the fact that Schönberg's score becomes generic and rhetorica in the big romantic numbers. They are, however, very well sung by Eva Noblezada as Kim and Alistair Brammer as Chris. Kwang-Ho-Hong also makes a very strong impression… I came away feeling this is a successful variation on an old tale and put across with exemplary vigour.
…Great art? Nope. But big theatre. The evening has one real show-stopping number, "The American Dream", and one gasp-inducing coup de theatre – the arrival of the chopper. They are just about enough… punters, at least for the first hour, may wonder what all the fuss is about… The music and recitatif is inoffensive but to the 21st-century ear may sound formulaic… the show could do with a clear emotional number early on. For that we have to wait almost an hour… With all the narrative clutter of the swanky staging and a fiddly-diddly score, the performers have little chance to establish themselves. But then comes Engineer's greedy, gaudy… fantasy of emigrating to America. Mr Briones finally hits the mark with a delivery of acid satire…
…was it worth anticipating quite so keenly? Almost. Laurence Connor's revival makes a couple of missteps but mostly it is a powerful production… no match for Les Mis, but it's performed here by some brilliant leads. The 18-year-old Eva Noblezada in particular is a sensational find as Kim… The Engineer, played with a brilliant, avaricious charm by Jon Jon Briones… though the staging is shadowy and more low-key than before, this is is still a huge show… I spent a lot of the first half feeling I was being played, and a lot of the second half not minding that a bit as the dramatic stakes got higher and higher… I'll forgive Miss Saigon a lot for the vivid way it depicts the fallout from an impossible love…