Miss Saigon - Sheffield Crucible. Photo by Johan Persson

Miss Saigon Reviews – Sheffield Theatres

A reviews round-up for Sheffield Theatre’s brand new revival of Miss Saigon at the Crucible Theatre, directed by Robert Hastie and Anthony Lau.

Miss Saigon stars Joanna Ampil as The Engineer, Jessica Lee as Kim and Alternate Mimi, Christian Maynard as Chris, Desmonda Cathabel as Mimi and Alternate Kim, Aynrand Ferrer as Gigi, Shanay Holmes as Ellen, Ethan Le Phong as Thuy, Emily Ooi as Yvonne and Understudy Gigi, Shane O’Riordan as John, Ericka Posadas as Fifi and Understudy The Engineer; with an ensemble that features Adam Colbeck-Dunn as GI and Understudy John, Andrew Davison as GI and Ensemble, Oscar Kong as Ensemble, Abel Law as Ensemble, Lavinia Mai as Ensemble, Patrick Munday as Ensemble and Understudy Thuy, Rachel Jayne Picar as Ensemble, Aharon Rayner as GI and Understudy Chris, Ernest Stroud as GI and Ensemble, Rumi Sutton as Ensemble and Understudy Ellen, Callum Tempest as GI and Ensemble, Danny Whelan as GI and Ensemble, Riley Woodford as GI and Ensemble, and Iverson Yabut as Ensemble.

The show, originally produced by Cameron Mackintosh in the West End and around the world, including a current production in Australia, has music by Claude-Michel Schönberg and lyrics by Richard Maltby Jnr and Alain Boublil, adapted from original French text by Alain Boublil. Additional lyrics are by Michael Mahler, and orchestrations are by William David Brohn.

Joining Robert Hastie, who is artistic director of Sheffield Theatres, and Anthony Lau, are: Designer Ben Stones, Choreographer Jade Hackett, Lighting Designer Jessica Hung Han Yun, Sound Designer Mike Walker, Video and Animation Designer Andrzej Goulding, Musical Director Chris Poon, Orchestral Management David Gallagher, Casting Director Stuart Burt CDG, Children’s Casting Director Sarah De Souza, Intimacy Coordinator and Fight Director Haruka Kuroda, Wigs, Hair and Make-up Designer Sam Cox, Associate Director Lexine Lee, Associate Choreographer Nicola Mac, Assistant Musical Director Matthew Jackson, Music Assistant Tom Crathorne and Occupational Therapist Jane Titterton.

Miss Saigon is playing until 19 August 2023 at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

The Times

"Who needs a helicopter, this is a hit"

"... the great virtue of this pared-back yet electrifying revival from Robert Hastie and Anthony Lau — directing the first nonreplica regional production — is that it ought to win over people who, like me, have always thought the original show, helicopter and all, was the embodiment of the mega-musical at its gaudiest."

"There are some things you can’t entirely fix, of course: the melodies and lyrics sometimes land with such a dull thud that you might be listening to a concept album by T’Pau. But Chris Poon, the musical director, oversees lean orchestrations, while the shlock-free staging brings the story’s emotions into sharper focus."

"... Joanna Ampil (no stranger to the role of the ill-starred ingenue Kim) gives such an assured display that any doubts soon dissolve. A character once played by Jonathan Pryce in yellowface now becomes an even more morally ambiguous presence. Ampil’s vocals are majestic"

"Jessica Lee’s Kim, the Engineer’s latest acquisition, is assertive and three-dimensional."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Telegraph

"Respectfully revised, and as emotionally searing as ever"

"This restaging of Boublil and Schönberg’s take on Madama Butterfly makes necessary changes, without compromising the dramatic heft one bit"

"... this production has a substantial and creatively engaged cohort of British East and Southeast Asian actors, with the role of Engineer taken by Joanna Ampil. The racial dynamic between the lovers has also changed, and Chris, who fathers a child with Kim, is here an African-American marine (Christian Maynard giving a touchingly vulnerable and measured performance)."

"As for ensuring that the show is less vulnerable to charges of demeaning stereotyping, revisionism is apparent from the start: the usual thrusting sexualisation in the opening “Dreamland” brothel scene is gone."

"Overall, there’s less in the way of touristic (and Orientalist) opulence, although with its spare, sweeping design evoking a teeming metropolis and bursts of video-projected imagery and colour, it doesn’t short-change on spectacle."

"Whether such amendments will be enough to placate the naysayers, who knows? For me, the show is carried, as ever, by its fecund musical variety, its spine-tingling ballads especially, and the undying resonance of its depiction of fear, desperation and sacrifice amid war and upheaval."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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What's On Stage

"Assured interpretation of a classic that remains a sweeping epic"

"Directors Robert Hastie and Anthony Lau make the most of their large ensemble cast and their performance space, flooding the stage with boisterous musical numbers, balancing movement with quieter, more intimate moments between characters."

"Jessica Lee as Kim gives a tender and sympathetic performance, whilst Christian Maynard is in fine operatic voice as Chris. Ethan Le Phong excels as Thuy, demanding your attention with a genuine talent, and Joanna Ampil commands the stage with a domineering performance as the Engineer."

"On occasions, the juxtaposition and tonal shifts jar too sharply – nowhere more evident than the penultimate song, “American Dream”..."

Paul Szabo, What's On Stage
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The Sunday Times

"In Sheffield’s version the Engineer, who is normally a baritone, is played by Joanna Ampil. The casting of a soprano alters the register, making the opening songs shrieky, and reduces the sense that the heroine, Kim, is the victim of male selfishness."

"Jessica Lee makes a fragile, determined Kim and Christian Maynard brings likeable gentleness to her GI boyfriend Chris. The staging is less satisfactory, the backdrop being nastily metallic and the brothel scenes oddly antiseptic."

"With the evening in danger of lacking emotional wallop, Shanay Holmes saves things with a soulful Maybe"

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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The Guardian

"Slick machine of a musical rather than a radical rewrite"

"Billed as an opportunity to reframe Boublil and Schönberg’s original, this is more of a tweak but it is a visually captivating production"

"There are many positives in their shiny and accomplished crowdpleaser but this is more of a tweak than a rigorous reimagining... the story of Vietnamese “bargirl” Kim (Jessica Lee), who falls fatally in love with Chris (Christian Maynard), an American GI posted in Saigon, feels much like the musical we know, complete with stereotypes. A thoroughly diverse cast has been employed but can casting make the story’s racial stereotypes less problematic? Not always in this case."

"Kim is given a welcome steeliness, but there is only so much wiggle room within her role"

"Yet, for the unresolved politics in this story, Schönberg’s score has a booming beauty, so operatic at times that we can trace it to its original source in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, even if Boublil and Richard Maltby Jr’s lyrics (with additions by Michael Mahler) are rammed with schmaltz."

"What this production also brings is wow factor in craft and skill. It is a shining machine, slick and visually captivating."

"And there are a sweep of magnificent performances. Lee’s rich voice contains a well of emotion in songs like I Still Believe and Sun and Moon. Maynard plays Chris with heart and earnestness. Ampil is an adrenalised force as The Engineer"

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
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The Stage

"Performances that emphasise the rage and anguish"

"UK’s first brand-new production of the blockbuster musical is starker and grittier, but stops short of radical reinvention"

"Co-directors Anthony Lau and Robert Hastie promised to reframe the piece, tackling its problematic aspects head-on. What they deliver is certainly starker and grittier, with performances – which are universally stunning – that emphasise the rage and anguish among the romance and the spectacle. But it stops short of radical reinvention."

"... Joanna Ampil, herself a former West End Kim, is superb. With a vulpine smile, tattoos snaking up her arms and across her chest, and a garish leopard-print wardrobe, she marries steely verve and a survivor’s savage determination with a hint of a heart."

" It’s still essentially, and probably inescapably, the same old blunt, brash show – but Lau and Hastie give it a new and invigorating rough edge."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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📷 Main photo: Miss Saigon - Sheffield Crucible. Photo by Johan Persson

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1 thought on “Miss Saigon Reviews – Sheffield Theatres”

  1. I just seen this with the engineer played by a strong wonam and not for laughs its shifted the dynamic of this show. The women where strong the men week and manipulated. This is the first production where the engineer was more than the comic turn. The production goes for less of the tissue moments shows more of the pathetic mess left when the US pulled out of Vietnam

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