Review: Miss Saigon, An Unforgettable Musical Theatre Performance at the Opera House

Play, Sydney / 29 August 2023
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Review: Miss Saigon, An Unforgettable Musical Theatre Performance at the Opera House

Play, Sydney / 29 August 2023

Direct from the West End and Broadway, experience this epic love story of passion and tragedy at the iconic Sydney Opera House this August – October.

One of the longest-running musicals in history, the iconic Miss Saigon tells the tragic love story of Kim and Chris during the final days of the Vietnam War. But to describe Miss Saigon as a romance is inadequate. Miss Saigon speaks to the desperation of survival, the hope for a better life, and the willingness to sacrifice. 

It’s a powerful dramatic musical with multiple show-stopping numbers, featuring lyrics by long-time composer collaborators Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schönberg. 38 million people in 32 countries have seen Miss Saigon since its London West End debut in 1989. Now playing in Sydney (before continuing its tour onto Melbourne), Opera Australia presents Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed new production of Boublil and Schonberg’s Miss Saigon. The production features a multicultural ensemble cast of 42 artists, singers, dancers, and acrobats – an entire principal cast of Asian-Australian performers from Australia and New Zealand. 

A hit musical needs at least one incredible song; Miss Saigon has many. The show opens with a debaucherous scene of American GI’s and Vietnamese prostitutes. Set in a rowdy brothel, the ensemble belts out The Heat Is On. With raunchy and vulgar lyrics, it exemplifies a gritty, seething Vietnam.

The dramatic score shifts from bleak hellish sights and sounds of a war to contrasting poignant songs. 

18-year-old Abigail Adriano makes her main-stage lead debut as Kim. Her beautiful emotive voice sings with longing and force, especially during her rendition of You Will Not Touch Him as she fights to protect her son, and in the heartbreaking finale Little God of My Heart. 

All the performers were brilliant but non-binary Filipino-Australian Seann Miley Moore (playing The Engineer) dominates as the pimp with a showman’s charisma especially during the smash hit The American Dream. The scene of The Engineer’s dream speaks to his desire to escape Vietnam. Seann describes it as a “pure camp cabaret” with a Vegas-style chorus, a large-scale Statue of Liberty head, and a Cadillac rolling on stage.

The set design is spectacular and it’s wonderful to see Cameron Mackintosh chose to create theatre magic for one of the most pivotal scenes rather than opt for a screen version as other productions have done. Using a life-size skeletal Huey helicopter, echoed by the surround sound of roaring helicopter blades, the chaotic separation of Kim and Chris during the U.S. evacuation of Saigon is made all the more dramatic.

With accusations of being one-sided and perpetuating the white-man saviour, it might be one of the most controversial musicals in history but it’s certainly still worth seeing to judge for yourself.

Miss Saigon is an enthralling fast-paced musical and the 2 hours and 40 minutes run time speeds by.

Showing at the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House until 13 October.

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