Over the years I have seen most of the major “contemporary” (for their time) plays/musicals/dramas of the live theater. This may be an exaggeration but the current staging of Miss Saigon at the Broadway Theater in New York City is likely the best I have ever seen.
This was my third viewing, the last one being over a decade ago. No matter, it was all like new. In the event, I recalled few details of the story and little of the music. The presentation was, however, almost unbearably extraordinary in every way. A live orchestra added to the drama of the acting. The integration of the music and the play was so perfect that you were not really aware of the role the music was playing until it stopped. Even if you knew the story and what was about to happen next, the presentation was so effective that the suspense, pain, horror and resolution came each time as a surprise and a shock. The suffering of the participants in the inescapable conflicts felt completely genuine.
Jon Jon Briones played the Engineer, a maître d’-like character who brings to mind Joel Grey’s masterwork as the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret. You love to hate him even as you are forced to admire his handiwork. But most stunning, in my view, was the performance of Eva Noblezada as Kim, the love object of an American soldier about to depart Vietnam as the tragic American intervention came to its horrific close. In addition to completely convincing acting, her voice was transcendent. Her duet with John (Nicholas Christopher) entitled Too Much for One Heart says it all.
Overall, the play evokes Romeo & Juliet in that good people are trapped in a situation not of their making and there is no way out. For those who lived through the period, and likely more so for those who served there, the complete personal and national tragedy of the American participation in the Vietnam War is fully captured in this emotional juggernaut of a play. Even if you have seen it before, this is a presentation you should see again. If you’ve never seen it, get thee to New York and do yourself a favor by witnessing this compelling spectacle.
And bring tissues.