Chris – Alistair Brammer
Kim – Julia Abueva
Engineer – Jon Jon Briones
John – Hugh Maynard
Ellen – Carolyn Maitland
Thuy – Kwang-Ho Hong
Gigi- Rachelle Ann Go
Show date – Monday 29th September 2014
The heat is on in Saigon, the story begins out in Vietnam and the American soldiers. Taking place around a brothel and with the engineer being the central role in taking girls into it and selling them to the soldiers. Everything chances one night when Kim is brought in and Chris falls for her instantly. But with the war and they are then separated we aren’t really sure how it is going to turn. With a very strange musical and dance number then happening on the stage we find out that three whole years have passed by. Then the biggest thing of all that Kim has a son Tam who is Chris’ yet he does not know about him. Only problem is Chris is now married to Ellen … I won’t spoil anymore of the story although it is a difficult one not to hear about.
You may think that the show is going to be nice and a love story, but it takes a few twists and isn’t what you think it is going to be. It’s pretty tragic but has some fantastic songs throughout to keep you going. It reaches a point when you aren’t entirely sure which character you feel sorry for the most. It is such a difficult decision to make as you really do end up feeling for them all. Things happen in time and things change, it’s how you deal with them that counts.
The highlight has to be the real helicopter on the stage, I mean just how do they get that to work and the sound is deafening! I really did find that part to be totally amazing. I bought the live recorded soundtrack for the show last week, so managed to listen through it a few times before seeing the show. I knew most of the big songs and was really looking forward to seeing American Dream live (thanks to Jonathan Pryce) which is probably not many people’s favourite song from this show, but I really do think its fantastic. Loved Jon Jon Briones performance of it as well, you have to wait throughout the whole show for that number. I also thought he was the strongest on stage and somehow made me like The Engineer, are you actually supposed to like him?
A big problem I think we had for the date we saw the show was that we didn’t get the first choice (or even second choice) Kim. We had Julia Abueva and while her acting as shy and awkward worked very well, her voice just wasn’t strong enough for some of the songs. This left me rather disappointed, I mean it was all very good on a whole but the leading lady really needs to stand out. For Abueva this was not the case, especially having listened to the cast recording and being impressed with that. A stand out performance came from Rachelle Ann Go as Gigi who totally outshone other women in the show and really has an incredible voice.
We also had the alternate Ellen with Carolyn Maitland taking on the role, she had an incredible voice though and I didn’t even think she was not the first choice for the part. She really was fantastic in all her scenes and had a very powerful singing voice. I was very impressed with her performance and it must be saying a lot if she is the alternate for the role.
It’s pretty hard to pick my favourite song or even favourite part of the show as it really does have so many brilliant love songs and makes you really think about how powerful the love between Chris and Kim is. But then at the same time the love between Chris and Ellen as well. I guess it has to give you hope that no matter what tragedy happens it is always possible to fall in love again and find someone else in life.
Alistair Brammer was very good as Chris, both with his acting and singing in his performance. I think the highlight had to be his breakdown scene when telling Ellen the truth the way he was singing whilst being angry and emotional really blew me away. Certainly one of the best outbursts in a show I have watched, you could feel his pain and emotion. He was very nice to look at as well, which is pretty essential for a role like this. I know that sounds very shallow but it has to be done for these shows.
A new production and the show just celebrated its 25th Anniversary last week as well, so it will be interesting to see how long this revival stays in the West End. It has proven to be extremely popular in the first few months and I am sure it will continue with the press and publicity surrounding it. I enjoyed this one more than I expected as wasn’t really sure if I would like the story. It moves at a steady pace and I must mention Tam – which is an incredible role for a young child to play especially with all the noise, singing and dancing going on to just stand still at times!
So the heat is certainly on in Saigon . . .