By Claude-Michel Schonberg, Richard Maltby Jr. and Alain Boublil
Directed by Tom Carter
Musical Direction by Don Hopkinson
Starring Christina Montgomery, Justin Gregory, and Franco Bottley
Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center, Sanford FL
It’s 1975 and things aren’t going well for most people in Saigon. The exception is Chris (Justin Gregory); he just met the hooker of his dreams. Kim (Montgomery) fled to Saigon after the Americans bombed her parents, and now her only job opportunity is sex. Her Fagan is the conniving “Engineer” (Bottley); he buys low and sells dear, demanding a steep price from Chris for his lover: a visa to the USA. Before the deal is done the VC win, the helicopter descends, and in three years the world has changed completely. Chris marries Ellen (Rachel Massaro), Kim has a child (Elliot Corpuz) and everyone takes a leaky boat to Bangkok. Time for a big blow out ending!
Gregory and Montgomery and Bottley and Massaro are all excellent singers, and when called upon to sing solo or duet they burn up the stage. But when ensemble numbers are required, the result is less satisfying, the sound is muddy and jumbled and it’s not clear what the words are. Director Carter is an ex Navy guy, he gets the gun shots right and the military protocol as well, and still finds time to build a convincing romance between Kim and Chris. However, he did write possibly the most incoherent page of Director’s Notes I’ve ever read. The “Dream Land” opener looks beautiful and while the helicopter scene was touch cheesy, it worked well enough bring some emotion out of the crowd. My favorite on stage was Engineer, while he was convincing and duplicitous he never lost sight of what was most important: get the heck out of Vietnam and go somewhere where the currency is more reliable. I was constantly amazed by both Montgomery and Gregory’s voices, when left alone they could do no wrong. Another cool effect was the Saddam-sized head of Uncle Ho, the nose was iffy but his Fu Manchu looked good. I’d almost want it for my deck, but I suspect the paper machè wouldn’t last.
This is a very ambitious show, and when it works it thrills. But there are some sound problems; missed mike cues and muddy ensembles weaken an otherwise overwhelming performance. While well sung, “Miss Saigon” only offers one memorable melody: “The American Dream” by Engineer. It’s worth the drive out to Sanford just to hear it, and maybe next time someone will proof the program.
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