MISS SAIGON flies triumphantly into Cleveland

A classic love story sweeps the stage as MISS SAIGON flies into Cleveland now through February 17, 2019 on the KeyBank State Theatre at Playhouse Square. The new production of Boublil and Schönberg’s musical is as triumphant as it is tragic, and shows how love can soar over time and distance.

MISS SAIGON has music by Claude-Michel Schönberg with lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. and Alain Boublil, adapted from original French lyrics by Alain Boublil, with additional lyrics by Michael Mahler.

Emily Bautista as ‘Kim’ and Anthony Festa as ‘Chris’ in the North American Tour of MISS SAIGON singing “Last Night of the World” (Photo – Matthew Murphy)

In 1975, Vietnamese war orphan Kim (Emily Bautista) finds herself working in a seedy bar for the shady character known as The Engineer (Red Concepción) when fate and an American G.I. named John (J. Daughtry) connect her to U.S. soldier Chris (Anthony Festa). When Saigon falls, John, Chris and the troops are pulled out of the area, unintentionally abandoning Kim, and leaving her to survive alone for three next years with her son Tam (Tyler Dunn on the night of this review). Even more heart-wrenching: Chris doesn’t know he now has a son, and his life has changed drastically in the three years since he left the war-torn country.

Red Concepción as ‘The Engineer’ in the North American Tour of MISS SAIGON (Photo – Matthew Murphy)

The vocals are soaring in this production. Paired with the longing lyrics and haunting harmonies, it’s hard not to fall in love with songs like “Sun and Moon,” “The Wedding Ceremony,” “The Last Night of the World,” “I Still Believe,” “I’d Give My Life For You,” “Bui Doi,” and “Little God of My Heart.”

Missing from this production is Ellen’s song “Now That I’ve Seen Her,” which has been replaced by “Maybe.” Also, some lyric swaps have been made for this tour. For example, in “The Movie In My Mind,”

these original lyrics:
The movie plays and plays
The screen before me fills
He takes me to New York
He gives me dollar bills
Our children laugh all day
And eat too much ice cream
And life is like a dream

are replaced by these lyrics:
The movie plays and plays
I’ll find my true romance
He takes me to a place
Where I don’t have to dance
Our children laugh all day
But all that I’ve been through
Can’t make my dream come true

Red Concepción (center as ‘The Engineer’) and the Company perform ‘American Dream’ in the North American Tour of MISS SAIGON (Photo – Matt Murphy)

But not missing are the beautiful acting moments, and wonderful production work via the lights, sounds, wardrobe, scenery, and projections. Speaking of projections: although underwhelming, the helicopter that evacuates the troops from Saigon is just one of these interesting projection effects in the tour.

The dance is spectacular, with pieces like “The Morning of the Dragon” featuring a full stage of exciting choreography that includes military moves, a smoking dragon, masks, flags and acrobatics.

The Company of the North American Tour of MISS SAIGON performs “Morning of the Dragon” (Photo – Matt Murphy)

This production is full of yearning and portrays the overwhelming desire for a better life. A photograph of a Vietnamese mother giving up her 11-year-old daughter to her American father in the United States (and the ultimate sacrifice that comes with those emotions) is the basis for Boublil and Schönberg’s creation of this spectacular piece of theater, and was a foundation for the pair to research and create this show.

J. Daughtry as ‘John’ and the Company perform “Bui Doi” in the North American Tour of MISS SAIGON (Photo – Matt Murphy)

This feeling is familiar to the plight of so many fleeing other countries today, as many families are risking everything (they are even willing to give up their children) to get them, the next generation, to a better place. Freedom from war and tyranny, and a chance at something better than poverty and fear are what MISS SAIGON emanates. There is a hope, an optimism, and an anticipation of more from even the darkest places.

MISS SAIGON has been performed in 32 countries, over 350 cities, in 15 different languages, has won over 70 awards including 2 Olivier Awards, 3 Tony Awards, 4 Drama Desk Awards and been seen by over 36 million people worldwide.

Overall, MISS SAIGON is a magnificent musical achievement that will tug at the heart, and send audiences away with an appreciation for the human condition.

Jinwoo Jung as ‘Thuy,’ Emily Bautista as ‘Kim,’ Sarah Ramirez as ‘Tam’ and the Company in the North American Tour of MISS SAIGON (Photo – Matthew Murphy)

MISS SAIGON is playing now through February 17, 2019 on the KeyBank State Theatre at Playhouse Square. Tickets and more information can be found by calling 216-241-6000 or visiting www.playhousesquare.org.

MISS SAIGON runs 2 hours and 40 minutes (including a 15 minute intermission).

The helicopter lands in ‘The Nightmare’ in MISS SAIGON (Photo – Matthew Murphy and Johan Persson); note – the helicopter is represented via projection for this tour

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