Wednesday, October 30, 2019

MISS SAIGON Opening Night Review! Seattle, WA 10/29/19


Paramount Theatre
Seattle, WA

(The helicopter lands in "The Nightmare" in MISS SAIGON.  Photo: Matthew Murphy and Johan Persson)


The 2019-2020 season of Broadway At The Paramount opened up last night with the long time favorite, “Miss Saigon”. Starring Red Concepcion, Emily Bautista, and Anthony Festa, the Paramount Theatre was filled with anxious attendees on a very cool October evening.

The musical has received brilliant notices for its current incarnation as well as some criticism due to the narrative (specifically the portrayal of the Asian characters as well as most of the female characters, among other things).  I have never seen the musical so I went in as fresh as possible. My review is from that vantage point.

The opening sequence in Act I was off putting to some. While it was no more offensive than any movie scene I’ve watched, it surely didn’t depict (Asian) women in a positive light to say the least. On one hand it’s part of a story set in a time when things are not what they are now. On the other hand sex workers are workers, too. But, the scene came off as rather tasteless for a musical in 2019.

The story improved as the show went along in Act I. It must be mentioned that Red Concepcion as The Engineer was simply a marvel to behold. He showed his veteran leadership in the role and was captivating any time he was on stage.

Emily Bautista as Kim was also magnificent in the role. She captured the essence of the longing between her and Chris (the soldier that falls in love with her) as well as the surprise later in the show (no spoilers here). Her voice was strong yet vulnerable as she belted out some of the best known songs from the musical.

When Act II started, the timeline had shifted to the U.S. in the 70’s - post war. Again, no spoilers here but Kim and Chris are in separate countries and there are obstacles in their way to seeing each other again.

Overall, the show was incredibly well done. The staging really was magnificent. The helicopter flashback was one of the most impressive things I’ve seen at a show thus far. The multi-tiered stage was also put to effective use throughout the show.  The large ensemble cast was also strong across the board. There really was nothing to fault with this show from my viewpoint.

But when the show was over I was a bit torn about what I thought. As many of you know, one of my basic litmus tests is I ask myself would I see this (show, concert, event, etc.) again? In the case of, “Miss Saigon”, I would but with some reservations.

Being an Asian American, the show was enjoyable but definitely dated in terms of the material. I kept asking myself could they update this show to make it work for 2019. The answer is probably not. It wouldn’t be the same show, really. I also asked myself with so many other musicals out there and new ones being created, do we really need a show that depicts some characters in such demeaning ways. Again, probably not.

Let me close by saying again that the cast and everyone involved put on a spectacular musical last night. My criticism is with the show as it stands today. While it’s been seen (and loved) by millions since its debut over twenty-eight years ago, it may be time to consider retiring the show for good.

Having said that, when I left the theatre last night, a group of twenty-somethings behind me were absolutely gushing over the show, the music, the love story, etc. When I separated from them, I looked over and saw that they were a group of Asian females. So, clearly the narrative didn’t bother them at all.

The show runs through this Sunday evening.  Check out a performance and let me know if you agree or disagree with my assessment.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
EA on YT

Special Thanks: Julie for always having everything working like clockwork. Thank you for the opportunity. I really appreciate it!

“Miss Saigon” plays through November 2nd. Tickets can be purchased here:  TICKETS!

(Red Concepci√≥n as‘The Engineer,’Jace Chen as‘Tam’and Emily Bautista as‘Kim’in the North American Tour of MISS SAIGON  Photo by Matthew Murphy.)

(Emily Bautista as "Kim" and Anthony Festa as "Chris" in the North American Tour of MISS SAIGON singing, "Last Night Of The World".  Photo by Matthew Murphy)

No comments:

Post a Comment