Saturday, October 20, 2012

Miss Saigon (Scenario)


Vietnam 1975, naive province lass Kim comes to Saigon hoping for a fresh start. Faced with the harsh realities of the raging war, Kim is taken in by the Engineer, who runs a bar that caters mainly to American soldiers. Clueless about the ins and outs of prostitution, her innocent charms attract Chris, a young GI who is already fed up with a life embroiled in war and frequent visits to the red light district. As Rihanna would probably tell them had she been born decades earlier: they found love in a hopeless place, and in a very inopportune time. With Saigon quickly succumbing to Hanoi's power, could these two star-crossed lovers really promise forever?

Okay, fine, the whole production was in Thai but what the heck, there were subtitles, which no addict of the soundtrack would really need. This musical has been playing on my MP3 since forever, and I have been looking forward to the day when I could finally match the lyrics with the faces, the rhythm to the events. It is a good thing that this Thai production does not disappoint. Besides, with a material that relies on a theme that is truly universal, no language barrier would be strong enough not to send the message across.

The thing about Miss Saigon is that it is perversely fun to watch because of the glitzy production numbers that hold no boundaries. The Heat is on in Saigon just kicks off the show and propels everything in motion, only to be followed by a moving ballad called The Movie in My Mind, which gives you a peek of what is really happening inside those bar girls' heads. And you thought their dance number was fun, when every gyrating move actually masks an ugly truth that is more scathing than it is liberating. More than that, it is the love story, that little gem of innocence tossed in the middle of all the chaos, that makes it so captivating

The cast members are good and exceed expectations. Apologies for not identifying the actors, as Thai names are just as hard to spell as they are to pronounce. The girl who plays Kim has the good combination of the jovial face and a lovely vibrato that makes you want to cry. The weakest link, perhaps, is the guy who plays Chris because he seems too young, or maybe the right term would be 'boyish'. When he belts out his rendition of Why God Why, it is clear that his pipes are up for it, but as he sings the lines: "I've been with girls who knew much more, I've never felt confused before," it makes you want to ask him: "Really? When was that, kindergarten?"

The guy who plays Engineer should also be lauded for his efforts. He is really entertaining. His showstopping version of American Dream does not only demonstrate his range as a musical actor, but also serves as a good breather in between two seriously heavy scenes.

The sets move by themselves, which makes the transition from one scene to another easier and reduces the need for blackouts, with one scene freely flowing into another. The most surreal would have to be the helicopter scene. The one used here looks fake, although judging from the size of the stage, they could have brought in a real one, if the one used is indeed not real, that is. Aside from the sound effects and stunning visuals, what makes that scene powerful is its purpose as the revelation in the form of a flashback, which povides the answers to all of your questions.

The last musical to get me this close to tears was Next to Normal. It is not that hard to fall in love with the love story of Kim and Chris, and the many complications that they go through makes you want to intervene if you could just to give them a break, like, enough already. Can we not allow two soul mates to be happy? But the world is not like that. Life is not always like that. And so it moves on to an ending that is just depressingly beautiful.

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