Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Review: Miss Saigon starring Chris Peluso, Eva Noblezada & Jon Jon Briones

Miss Saigon
Prince Edward Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 9th June 2015

When I first reviewed the West End revival of Miss Saigon in 2014 I said the show had landed in style; one year on a new cast have joined the production, and the heat is very much still on in Saigon.

Following the tragic love story between young bar girl Kim, orphaned by war, who embarks on a whirlwind romance with Chris - an American GI - before the Vietnamese War comes between them, Miss Saigon is heavy and draining, but also hugely inspiring. Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil's score is extraordinarily powerful, never failing to send shivers down my spine.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy
I've caught Miss Saigon a couple of times over the past twelve months and it just seems to get better and better. Once again I watched the show on the edge of my seat, in awe of the exceptional talent onstage and wrapped up in the heart-breaking story of war, survival and sacrifice. 

The new cast of Miss Saigon is led by Broadway actor Chris Peluso who has taken over as Chris. Fresh from appearing in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical in New York, Peluso's portrayal is striking - it has been quite some time since I've been so impressed by a leading man. He performs with precision; his diction is clear and his portrayal is rounded and believable at all times. Peluso's vocals are effortless, with his faultless rendition of 'Why God Why?' standing out as a real highlight.

Eva Noblezada continues to perform for her life night after night in her West End debut as Kim. It seems utterly ludicrous that Noblezada didn't receive an Olivier Award nomination earlier this year (however, she certainly made a point by giving the performance of the night at the awards ceremony). Noblezada has fine-tuned and developed her portrayal of Kim, highlighting the character's remarkable inner-strength, passion and endless determination. 

Also continuing in the cast is Miss Saigon royalty Jon Jon Briones whose performance as The Engineer raises the roof. Briones is a superhuman; he pitches every moment to perfection whilst having fun with the role which provides a few, much needed, moments of light relief. Briones first appeared in Miss Saigon when the original West End production opened in 1989 and has since starred as The Engineer on the US, Asian and UK tours as well as in Germany and the Philippines, yet his performance is so fresh and full of life. Briones' rendition of 'American Dream' at the end of the night is worth the ticket price alone, he gives an absolute masterclass. 

Due to the indisposition of new cast members Siobhan Dillon and Natalie Mendoza, at the performance I saw the roles of Ellen and Gigi were played by new cast member Claire Parrish and continuing company member Marsha Songcome. Both shined as major talents, those who didn’t check the cast board would never have known they weren’t watching the lead. Ellen may be a smaller role but Parrish absolutely smashed it, belting out a superb rendition of 'I Still Believe' before casting a spell with 'Maybe'. She played Ellen sweetly and innocently, preventing the character from becoming 'the other woman' which is important to the story.

Songcome was sublime as Gigi, giving an unforgeable rendition of 'The Movie In My Mind' and taking to the stage with commanding presence throughout. I enjoyed watching Hugh Maynard as John; this time round his 'Bui Doi' seemed a little more controlled, but just as powerful and thought provoking. The ensemble are slick and on the ball at all times - they are vibrant and full of character, showcasing incredible talent. 

Laurence Connor's production is technically out of this world. Bruno Poet's lighting design remains jaw-droppingly impressive (the lighting of 'American Dream' is utter perfection) and, once again, I overheard several gasps and wows during the iconic helicopter scene.

One year on, Miss Saigon is still bringing emotionally empowered audiences to their feet eight times a week. The new cast have brought a fresh vibe to the show, whilst remaining company members continue to impress and dazzle. Strap yourself in and be prepared for an epic few hours of unforgettable escapism, Miss Saigon is the musical of all musicals.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Miss Saigon is currently booking at the Prince Edward Theatre until 19th December 2015.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

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