Miss Saigon: Spectacular tale of love and war

Tina Bergantinos-Panlilio as Kim, Marcus Rivera as The Engineer and Jack Fraser as Chris in the beautifully devastating production of Miss Saigon. Photos: Showbiz Christchurch
Tina Bergantinos-Panlilio as Kim, Marcus Rivera as The Engineer and Jack Fraser as Chris in the beautifully devastating production of Miss Saigon. Photos: Showbiz Christchurch
This heart-wrenching musical set during the dangerous days before and after the fall of Saigon is another triumph for one of the city’s leading musical theatre companies.
 
Showbiz Christchurch has produced a spectacular production, taking on the emotionally-intense Miss Saigon.
 
Set in the 1970s during the Vietnam War, the global-blockbuster paints a candid picture of the grim reality Vietnamese, particularly women, had inflicted on them as a result of the war.
 
I can only imagine how emotionally-drained the performers, particularly the lead roles, must feel at the end of the show each night. There were rarely any lulls in this fast-paced production and the highly-energetic cast gave it everything they had.
 
Showbiz brought in some seriously big guns to play the extremely challenging lead roles, and it took the show up to another level on the professional scale.
 
Leading Filipino performer Marcus Rivera was absolutely mesmerising in the sleazy, calculating, borderline-creepy role of The Engineer.
 
Although you could say The Engineer is the antagonist of the show – selling women at his seedy club – I couldn’t help but love the cheeky persona Rivera displayed in what is a complex role, and he also provided some much-needed comic relief.
 
If You Want To Die in Bed and The American Dreamwere absolute standouts by Rivera, who was backed by a sparkling cast. Both musical numbers brought the razzle-dazzle of Broadway to the stage, and portrayed The Engineer’s desperate plight to obtain a visa to live in the United States.
 
Tina Bergantinos-Panlilio was angelic in her role as Kim. She has one of the most beautiful, world-class voices I have ever heard from a performer in a Showbiz production.
 
Tina Bergantinos-Panlilio as Kim portrays the unbreakable bond a mother has with her child in Miss Saigon.
Tina Bergantinos-Panlilio as Kim portrays the unbreakable bond a mother has with her child.
Forced into prostitution before falling in love with a US GI, Bergantinos-Panlilio owned the historically career-transforming role of Kim. What really tugged at the heartstrings was the way she portrayed the unbreakable bond Kim has as a mother with her son Tam.
 
There was so much to take in, but two moving numbers were The Movie In My Mind and Bui Doi.
 
Miss Saigon deals with mature themes, including prostitution, exploitation, violence and suicide, which requires a brave cast to be able to pull it off.
 
Wearing minimal clothing and playing the role of prostitutes would have taken an immense amount of courage from the female ensemble. I admire the confidence the women in this show have and how they executed such a difficult role in a professional manner.
 
The Movie In My Mind, led beautifully by Sion Choi and the bar girls, was a cold slap in the face as it explored the hardships inflicted on women in the war, especially how it expressed their dreams of a better life and their desperation to escape to the US.
 
Bui Doi was another powerful number which advocated for the Vietnamese and American children conceived during the war.
 
The song was impressively led by powerhouse James Foster in the role of John the GI and backed by a strong male cast.
 
Miss Saigon was educational, genuine and takes audiences on an emotional roller coaster ride. I would happily go see it again.
 
•Miss Saigon is on at the Isaac Theatre Royal until October 12. Book tickets here.
 
Miss Saigon is produced by Showbiz Christchurch.
Music by Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr and Alain Boublil.
Reviewed by Georgia O’Connor-Harding.

 

 

 

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