There are some musicals that just stand well above the rest in every single way – staging, music, lyrics, cast – everything! Miss Saigon is one of these shows. I never seem to tire of it and every time I see it it seems to be even better than the last. Even listening to the soundtrack on repeat for weeks and being word perfect on every song doesn’t ruin the experience of seeing the show live. And the only thing I love more than theatre? Bargains. And let me tell you, this might just be one of the best bargains I have ever experienced. For the two matinees before Christmas (23rd and 24th December) all the top price seats were £25, meaning that I could actually afford to sit in the second row! I’d never had the chance to be so close to a West End show before and I still can’t really believe how much of a difference to the experience it made.
Being so close to the action means that you spot lots of extra details that you simply can’t see from the upper circle. I didn’t think the famous helicopter scene Kim’s Nightmare/The Fall Of Saigon could get any more impressive, but it turns out all I had to do was sit nearer the front! Seeing a full size helicopter landing on stage is amazing enough, but in the stalls you can actually feel the wind from the propellors and hear the helicopter approaching (the sound was so convincing I even turned around to see if there actually was something behind me!).
Even without the added excitement of being in the second row, this show really is something special. The cast are all outstanding – it’s almost impossible to believe Eva Noblezada is only 18, she performs with such power and her voice is beyond words. Tamsin Carroll is great as Ellen, her performance of Maybe nearly had me in tears and Hugh Manyard is wonderful as John, but the absolute stand-out member of the cast for me has to be Jon Jon Briones. He gives the Engineer more dimension than just being the creepy owner of Dreamland – I actually sympathise with him in parts and his desire to make it to America. His performance is incredible, especially during The American Dream, and I hope he goes on to star in many more West End productions – I will definitely be buying a ticket to anything he’s in!
After the show I went to the stage door to meet the cast (my new obsession, it’s so fun to see everyone outside and get pictures!) and spoke to an American woman who said that this was better than all the shows she’d seen on Broadway. I’m still not sure if I believe her, but it did make me feel proud that London really can compete with New York’s productions – a few of the shows I’ve seen recently left me feeling a bit underwhelmed (ahem, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!) and to hear that really encouraged me to appreciate what London has to offer. It may not have the same amount of variety and big budget shows as New York, but when it does a show well, it does it really well.