Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Miss Saigon

Chris and Kim share a moment in Saigon

Miss Saigon is being produced on Walnut Street Theatre’s main stage through July 24. Inspired by Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, composers of Les Miserables, collaborated with Richard Maltby Jr. to create this masterpiece. It is the love story of an American soldier and a Vietnamese girl who are separated during the fall of Saigon.
Following its London premier in 1989, Miss Saigon appeared on Broadway in 19991 and earned 11 Tony nominations, including Best Musical.  A bit of London and Broadway are appearing on the Walnut Street stage. Melinda Chua, as Kim gives an exceptionally powerful performance. Her voice is strong and her anguish is palpable. Eric Kunze, as Chris also gives a commanding performance.  It is no surprise that they both have performed in Miss Saigon on Broadway stages. Bobby Martino, who plays The Engineer, performed the musical with the original London cast. Although Kate Fahrner, as Ellen, plays a minor role, she is certainly not lacking in talent.  Choreographer Michelle Gaudette must be commended for the several intricate pieces designed for the large ensemble cast. Whether portraying ladies of the night or Viet Cong soldiers, they execute their steps perfectly. Scenic Designer John Farrell has done an excellent job with set changes. A series of screens slide in many directions to create the illusion of more space and different places. Did I mention the helicopter? What a feat to have a camouflaged helicopter hover over a barbed wire fence as soldier climb in and make their last exit out of Saigon before it falls while native Vietnamese plead to be freed. Miss Saigon is not for the faint of heart but it is for everyone with a heart. This is a wonderful must-see production. Keep tissues handy if you must, but don’t miss it. For more information or tickets, call 215-574-3550 or visit online at www.WalnutStreetTheatre.org.