It can be considered ambitious to take a difficult and acclaimed piece of international work and attempt to professionally recreate it in a regional city such as the Gold Coast, Australia. The Arts Centre Gold Coast, local director Brad Rush and a young and hungry cast have taken the epic and challenging source material of Miss Saigon and – with very few tweaks – have done it an incredible amount of justice.
Enthralling from the first note, the Arts Centre Gold Coast’s Miss Saigon took a packed house on an incredibly emotional journey that began with the authentic and well-priced tastes of Vietnam food stalls at the entrance to the building and concluded with the weepy yet thunderous applause at the curtain call. David Piper’s light and brisk musical direction kept the momentum going throughout the entire two and a half hour performance, with beautifully placed emotional pauses where required. Raunchy and no-holds-barred choreography by Ellen Simpson got pulses racing from the start. The visual team of Josh McIntosh and Wes Bluff outdid themselves with the wonky, murky browns and reds of South East Asia contrasting beautifully with the bright, neat and pastel world of star-crossed American lover Chris. The iconic helicopter scene was simply done and seamlessly executed.
It is difficult to pick stand out performances from the main cast, when all were so polished and committed. However special mention needs to be made of the exceptional range and vocal abilities of lead character Kim (Vivien Emsworth) who, with very little time off the stage, managed to wring the utmost emotion and sympathy from each line while compromising none of her beautiful technique.
Tanele Storm Graham brought her stunning powerhouse vocals to the role of Ellen with complete authenticity, and brought chills to the audience in the process. New York trained Adrian Li Donni and his gracefully flamboyant interpretation of perennial audience favourite The Engineer, proved without a doubt that a young actor can tackle the role with as much maturity and thoughfulness of execution as a seasoned veteran. The rest of the main cast: Chris (Chris White bringing his rock sensibilities to the role); John (played with utter believability by Matt Ward); Thuy (an appropriately terrifying and implacable Adam Jon); Gigi (a brassy Alison McKenzie) and Tam (the adorable Ethan Lin Yan) as well as the ensemble were all extremely strong, with no apparent weak spots to distract from the wrenching tale.
Miss Saigon is one of the best productions I have seen at the Arts Centre Gold Coast to date, and I look forward to seeing further work produced by the centre and director Brad Rush, whose deft and experienced touch was apparent throughout. With a run finishing on the 20th June, it is best to get tickets as soon as possible, for a show that you would definitely regret missing. Now if you’ll excuse me, Sun and Moon has just popped into my head, and there’s something in my eye…
Miss Saigon runs until 20 June 2015 and tickets are available from The Arts Centre Gold Coast website.