Miss Saigon at the Birmingham Hippodrome

misssaigon2I was lucky enough to be invited as part of my other blog, Full to the Brum, to see Miss Saigon at the Birmingham Hippodrome theatre and I thought I’d do a little write up about it here too.

Set in Vietnam, Miss Saigon tells the story of a doomed romance between a Vietnamese women and an American male soldier during the Vietnamese war in the 1970s. It’s a show based on the Puccini opera Madame Butterfly, where the geisha is instead a Vietnamese girl who works in a bar.  Despite being one of the longest-running shows on Broadway, I knew little about the plot of the musical going in, but the production is a blistering and absorbing portrayal, heavy with emotion and utterly captivating.

The love story between American soldier Chris and Vietnamese village girl Kim is ultimately a tragedy, wrapped up in the fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War.  I found the moral complexities of the play something that were often overshadowed by the spectacle of the show, but I’m not convinced a lesson in ethics is what the writers were going for.  It’s an intense and epic show with high drama, brash colourful sets and at one point a full-sized helicopter on stage – it’s very go big or go home.

miss-saigon-birmingham-hippodrome-summer-show-birm1The latter portion of Miss Saigon looks at the cost of war, both to the people left behind and the Bui Doi children born from American soldiers’ liaisons with local women, but it felt a bit lost in the onslaught of the striking scenes and dramatic first half.  Chris, whose judgement of his fellow soldiers’ use of local women who are trying to survive a war during the early part of the play, falls apart when faced with the moral dilemma when he returns to Vietnam some years later.  Rather than allow for moral ambiguity, the play seems to sweep this up quickly into a tragedy, which makes it hard to feel its poignancy.

Miss Saigon is a show I’m glad I’ve seen, and the production was certainly high-octane and did a great job with the source material on offer, but it left me with a lot of questions.  The production itself was one of the most visually spectacular I’ve seen and for that reason I think it’s a show to see at least one, but the play itself feels very much of its time and I wonder how well it will stand up as the years continue to pass.

As mentioned, I was initially invited to go and see the production to test out the Miss Saigon inspired menu that the theatre’s restaurant, The Circle, offers.  I really like the idea of a themed meal to go along with the show and it’s a really nice way of bringing the whole thing together with the flavours and inspiration of the show translated onto the plate.  Normally I’d just head for somewhere nearby and grab something quick, but I really like the idea of making a proper night of it and going for a nice dinner too. If you’d like to read what I thought about the food, you’ll find it over here.

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