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Miss Saigon 10th Anniversary show

Review by Robert O'Keefe
20th Sep 1999

Miss Saigon was 10 years old on the 20th September, Now I always thought she was older but hey thats showbiz for you.  Seriously this was why I started going to the Theatre and so there was no way I was going to miss this night.

    This is what happened to me, what I saw, what I thought, and who I met yes you'll all be in here ;o) ]  I'll keep it to my usual style as there have been plenty of "straight"  reviews so I'll stick to what I know.

       I left Risca just outside Newport at 1:30pm, after doing a half days work and headed straight for London fervently praying for no roadwork's on the M4, somebody up there must have taken pity on me because there weren't many, and what there were didn't slow me down much. In fact so little did they slow me down that when I arrived at Addlestone my brother the Policeman said "WHAT TIME DID YOU LEAVE WALES ??!!" Oops and sorry for any cars passed by a silver green blur on Monday afternoon :o)

    Quick change, well this was a celebration so Rob dressed up, and it was onto a train at Weybridge, and onto London. It was at this point that I did my bit to help with the weather, I carried an umbrella so upon arriving in London .................it stopped raining, never fails.

    Had a quick meal and then it was to the Opera Tavern Drury lane where I was to meet with 2 guys I chatted to on this very pages noticeboard Jeff and , when they arrived they found me at this establishment chatting to Amy who works at Miss Saigon and had just sneaked out to say hi, a great bonus for me as it's always great to meet with a very pretty lady.  She had to get back before they called the role and found out she'd sneaked through the security cordon. So we guys were left to chat about what we were about to see and what brought us to this point I.e the Theatre equivalent of a "who can spit the furthest contest" How Many times have you seen the show? :o) I am glad to say I kept up my side and came a graceful second.

    Then it was to the Theatre and upon entering I skilfully managed to dodge the cameras [ no publicity please :o) ]  and headed for .............you guessed it ........the bar. There we were chatting when a nice lady came over and said "are you Rob?" just before I could think oh I must be famous I remembered I'd put on the noticeboard what I looked like, and believe me when you look like me the last thing you can be is inconspicuous :o).  This was Sarah whom I thought immediately I know from somewhere but more off that later.

       So there we stood 6 Miss Saigon nuts in the Stalls bar of the Theatre Royal Drury lane just next to Bill Kenwright [ producer of Blood Brothers ] and to the left of Anneka Rice [ and no she wasn't wearing the jump-suit :o), infact she looked stunning ] Past walked, not floated or carried but walked mind you Sir Cameron and Mr. Shonberg  Heaven!

    Then the buzzer went and it was into the auditorium, And to my seat A10 [ call me jammy I know ] Front row just to the right of the conductor, I was in heaven. So to the Show.

    Now I know I've given a review of Miss Saigon before but I'm working on the principal that if you didn't wanna hear what I had to say you wouldn't have read this far :o)

    The show was basically an "ordinary" performance with the current cast, with just the chorus being swelled with extra members, but, what a performance. Joanna Ampil who I've seen play the role a few times now was faultless, scenes which stood out for me included, as usual the scene where she shoots "Thuy" and my personal favourite " I Still Believe". the tears she shed as she cradled her childhood sweetheart were real. Leo Valdez  "The Engineer" brought in equal measure great menace and tenderness as well as his great sense of fun to " American Dream" and of " If You Wanna Die In Bed" he is easily the only true contender to Jonathan Pryces' Engineers Flares and Red Jacket.  Also great were Jo Jo De La Cerna as "Thuy" who showed the contradiction of the "love" he felt for "Kim" and the need to save face, displayed in the tears he had in his eyes when confronted with "Tam", and finally David Shannon as "Chris" whom I must admit I found a little understated in earlier performances, but who on this night was excellent. It was as if they all decided this was their chance to be in a "First-Night" performance. Either way it was an excellent show including even "Uncle Ho" rising to the occasion as originally intended.

        The interval. And a chance for something free, Champagne very nice and a chance to sort out the feeling of deja vue I [ and it turned out Sarah ] was feeling. Now this was proof that it really is a small world, atleast on the net,  we were both sure we had seen each other before, after a few comparisons of our Theatre pasts we discovered that we had sat next to each other at the "Hey! Mr. Producer"  show at the Lyceum, small world isn't it :o)

    The second act was great too, with the final scene bringing tears to the eyes of most of the audience, and the final cry from "Chris" as the curtain slowly drops coming straight form the heart and hitting the viewer in the same place.

    A number of curtain calls and standing ovations later, and we get to the 10th Anniversary celebrations. The Orchestra starts the curtain raises and in the middle of an empty stage you see a lone figure, the follow spots sweep the stage like the helicopter gunships that the show was originally famous for, and lock onto...... Lea the audience including this guy go wild. She then performs "Sacred Bird" wonderfully and then thanks the production team for changing her life, a heartfelt and touching speech obviously sincerely meant. Then she was joined by Simon Bowman, Claire Moore & Keith Burns, to sing an acapella version of "This Is The Hour", as the stage clears your left with "THE Engineer" Jonathan Pryce and are treated to a specially rewritten version of "American Dream" including "Six Millionaires in a Cadillac" Boublil, Schonberg, Mackintosh, Hytner, Maltby, Napier. and they after the customary speeches, oh I must break here, one not customary thing was the person in the row behind me who heckled the great Scot, as he said the show was wonderful she shouted "Well don't take it off then", I must say he adlibbed well saying he had to because one of the blinds was broken, a great line  relating to the start of scene one when one of the wicker "blinds" dropped with one hell of a bang.

    They concluded with all the [ or atleast most ] of the children who had played "Tam" some of which were now big enough to play "Thuy".

    An excellent evening. Which MUST be released as a video [ hint hint Sir Cameron?? ]  Made all the more special for me by the nice people who I met and can now hopefully call friends.

    As a result of being told I could not get into the after show party, Well at least he was nice about it or at least his assistant was, well you never know till you ask, so I asked, and they said no :o( I decided to go to the stage door. Unfortunately so did most other members of the audience, so I didn't get to see the stars, and decided on a strategic retreat so I headed for the Talk of London and a Cabaret.

    After walking for 15 mins or so not finding a single cab not already booked. At this point coming to the conclusion they're like "murphys law" you know they exist, they prove it at every opportunity when you don't want them to but when you need to confirm it NO CHANCE. Anyway I walked to where I thought it was realised it wasn't hailed the first empty cab of the evening, was taken literally round the block to the next street and was charged £1.40 for my trouble.

    The cabaret this evening was not put on by one of the shows, a great disappointment to me till the lady starring started to sing. She sorry her name was Lindsey Danvers was  brilliant, bubbly with an excellent voice and the songs......written by "Miller & Bard" were amongst the best I've ever heard. A wonderful end to a truly memorable evening.

    I headed back to the Theatre Royal to await my lift, long suffering brother to the rescue again. And I just saw Lea leaving, and me without a Frickin' [ sorry great Dr. Evil fan ] pen again.

    Final mention should go to all the unsung heroes of this night the stage & backstage crew, I've helped out back stage at a local Theatre and realise what work is done by these unsung lynchpins of the fantasy world we all love so much, So Thanks a lot to Amy and all her friends.

    I'll be there for the last night on the 30th and I'll apologise in advance for becoming a little emotional at the end as the end of this show is not something I can bear to think about. Especially with NO VIDEO to ease the transition :o)

Rob


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