Review: Miss Saigon: 25th Anniversary (2016)

miss-saigon-poster2I had no idea this existed. Not until I saw it, sticking out like a sore thumb, amidst all the cinemas carrying Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. There it was, Miss Saigon: 25th Anniversary, and my first thought was this is one of those behind the scenes kind of film, peppered with backstage footage, and cast interviews, and the like. So I didn’t give it much more than a casual inquiry directed at my friend Bliss (whom I was with during the incident in question) about what exactly is Miss Saigon doing in this mall cinema. And in answer, her face lit up like a lantern on Christmas Day. So apparently, producer Cameron Mackintosh had the brilliant idea to record the live performance in London’s West End during Miss Saigon’s revival at the Prince Edward Theater, and have it released for worldwide screenings. And Miss Saigon is perhaps one of the earliest musicals I am fondly familiar of. A CD of this musical was one among the many items I mooched from my sister, the moment she moved out of the house. But that is (or was) the extent of my experience of Miss Saigon. A disembodied voice from a CD. Hearing but never seeing. So you can imagine how ecstatic I was about this movie musical (of sorts). I can no longer count the number of times I grabbed Bliss’s arms, like a fan gone rabid.

Now, Bliss told me that nothing can compare to the energy of live theater, but this is the closest thing I ever got to one. Yep. I have never seen a live professional theater production. My life is sad, I know. But I think a filmed footage of a live theater production is a different animal from a live theater show, to be judged using different parameters. With that said Miss Saigon: 25th Anniversary has a motion picture quality to it, And the cinematography is skillful. They added in some wonderful close-ups to enhance the emotional weight of every scene. And the set design is gorgeous. And the cast is killer. Eva Noblezada has the sweetest voice, but at the same time she does some really powerful, gut-wrenching performances. But my absolute favorite is Jon Jon Briones as The Engineer, a.k.a. Tran Van Dinh. He relishes every bit of this character’s slick and sly persona. And he owns every musical number, small and grand alike. Rachel Ann Go as Gigi is also not to be missed. Her screen time is very minimal but she is a powerhouse. And her “The Movie in My Mind” left me gasping for air. She is so good.

From start to finish, I was enraptured. And that’s a feat considering that the movie is roughly 3 hours long. And cherry on top is this thirty-minute special at the end, where the creators, and cast (past and present) show up for a tribute of sorts. I was apoplectic when Jonathan Pryce did “What A Waste” and “The American Dream”. I just can’t get over Lea Salonga’s and Simon Bowman’s reunion. And clearly both of them can’t too, judging from the fact that they can’t seem to keep their hands off of each other.

Miss Saigon has been regaling us for 25 long years, and counting. The West End production will have a limited run from the spring of 2017 to January, 2018 on Broadway. And then there’s a planned US Tour thereafter. Plus, rumor has it that Danny Boyle is to helm a film adaptation of this hit musical. So cheers to Miss Saigon! And may you forever be a movie in my mind.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

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