By Johanna Payton
What’s it about?1975, Saigon. It’s the end of the Vietnam War, and Kim, a young Vietnamese girl, falls in love with Chris, an American GI. All this combined with the fact that Miss Saigon is based on Puccini’s tragic opera Madame Butterfly might give some indication as to the levels of emotional intensity at stake here. The action’s set amidst the fall of Saigon (one particularly famous scene sees a helicopter whisk American troops away), but the poignant love story at the heart of Miss Saigon makes it timeless – hence why it’s one of the longest running musicals.
What’s it like on the big screen?Don’t take it from us – take it from legendary musical theatre producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh himself. The producer, who’s called Miss Saigon “astonishingly cinematic,” says that “the emotional performances of this wonderful cast in close up seems entirely natural, as if they were being shot for the cinema.” What’s more, “the clarity of the sound and the sweeping music makes this passionate story even more intensely thrilling and moving on the screen.” In fact, the translation’s been such a success, there are plans afoot for a Danny Boyle-directed adaptation.
What’s so special about this performance?In 2014, Mackintosh revived Miss Saigon on the West End – and 20,000 people tried to book tickets to the 25th Anniversary Gala Performance within the first five minutes of tickets being released. Luckily for us, though, Mackintosh filmed the performance during its run at the Prince Edward Theatre for a special one-off showing on the big screen. Eva Noblezada, who Mackintosh described as a “great miracle”, plays Kim, and she's joined on stage in this production by original cast members Jonathan Pryce, Lea Salonga and Simon Bowman in a special finale.
What do the critics say?It’s a big thumbs-up for the big screen version. The Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye says “I’ve seen the stage production more than 20 times. But watching a full rough cut of this picture felt like a totally fresh experience, and I heard the songs in a different way.” Ben Hewis from WhatsOnStage says “extreme close-ups accentuate moments that most people revisiting the show would have missed from the back of the stalls.”
Who should I take with me?
Hopeless romantics. Historical drama lovers. Opera fans. Whoever you choose to take this Sunday, just make sure you're OK crying in front of them.
Miss Saigon will be showing at Vue this Sunday; get times and tickets here.