Miss Saigon on Broadway is the Epic Musical We Were Missing
In 1989, theater-goers in London flocked to see Miss Saigon, a new musical from the team behind Les Miserables. A modernized retelling of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, it takes the tragic opera about a Japanese geisha and her American-general husband, and transfers it to the Vietnam War. Kim, a young woman whose family has died, begins working for a pimp as a bargirl in Saigon. There, she falls in love with Chris, an American soldier. The London show earned rave reviews, and in 1991 transitioned to Broadway, where it toppled all sorts of records. Now, it’s back in town, following a successful run in the West End. Does the revival live up to to the original? The Knickerbocker team went to see Miss Saigon on Broadway to find out.
Here’s what we loved about the musical Miss Saigon on Broadway.
The Same Melodies
Like with Les Mis, the music from Miss Saigon is exceptionally catchy. Melodic themes repeat throughout the musical, and linger long after the last bow). Songs like “The Movie in My Mind,” “Last Night of the World” and “Sun and Moon” are lilting, intimate ballads, while “This is the Hour” and, unsurprisingly, “Fall of Saigon” are epic tunes more along the lines of Les Mis’s “One Day More.”
The original productions made a star of Lea Salonga, the Filipino actress who played Kim. She won the Tony for her role, and went on to voice not one but two Disney princesses (Jasmine and Mulan). In the revival, Eva Noblezada soars as Kim. At times sweet, at times piercing, her voice perfectly captures the character. Jon Jon Briones excels as the Engineer, Kim’s boss who’s desperate to leave Vietnam and make it big in America. As Gigi, another bargirl, Rachelle Ann Go packs a punch in her brief solo moments (she’s heading to the West End later in the year, where she’ll play Elizabeth Schuyler in Hamilton).
Yes. There is a full-scale helicopter, and yes, it flies.
Beyond the helicopter, Miss Saigon is truly an epic tragedy. While recent arrivals to the New York stage portray small-scale stories—Waitress, Dear Evan Hansen, Sunset Boulevard—Miss Saigon tackles the American evacuation of Vietnam and the lingering effects. You’ll leave the theater humming the show’s songs, for sure, but you’ll also leave pondering large-scale questions about love, war and what happens when they coincide.