An Emotional Miss Saigon

Miss Saigon - Manna Nichols as Kim Photo Credit: Billy Bustamante

Miss Saigon – Manna Nichols as Kim
Photo Credit: Billy Bustamante

I went to the Ordway last night knowing little about the pop opera, Miss Saigon, but having seen it now, it’s a show I won’t soon forget. It’s no wonder that it is the 12th longest running musical on Broadway.

Set in Vietnam during the American occupation (1975 – 1978), the story begins with tragedy. Kim (Manna Nichols) has lost all her family to the war and winds up in a brothel run by the sleazy Engineer (Orville Mendoza). It’s there she meets the American Marine, Chris (Charlie Brady), who treats her with kindness and respect. He treats her as a person. They end up falling in love, but tragedy follows the couple throughout the show. (Warning: you will need to bring tissues!)

This Tony Award-winning musical was created by Les Misérables writers, Claude Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil.

The Good:

The story – as I said above, bring tissues to the show. It’s beautifully told, drawing the audience in with compelling characters that you care about, that you really want to succeed against the terrible odds.

The superb acting emotionally drew the audience in, captivating us. Your heart broke for Kim and Chris. Even The Engineer periodically gave us something to like about him.

The vocals were phenomenal, particularly Manna Nichols (Kim). Her voice was pure and bell-like, yet strong, and she easily navigated a wide vocal range. Charlie Brady’s (Chris) voice was powerful, and at first I wondered if he’d overpower Nichols’, but their blend on duets was beautiful. A perfect compliment to the disparate characters blending their lives together.

The helicopter – great special effects!

The So-So:

At times the volume was overwhelming, the music almost stole away from the story.

While I loved the music and the vocals, there doesn’t seem to be a signature piece that defines Miss Saigon. If you think about Les Misérables, there are two numbers that everyone knows, even if they’ve never seen the show: On My Own, and I Dreamed a Dream. Wicked has Popular, For Good, and many more. With most any musical you watch, there’s usually that that familiar piece that will connect the viewer with the show. Even though I’m a musical person, I’d never heard any of the pieces from Miss Saigon before, so I lacked that instant connection of familiarity.

The Interesting:

While I was aware of the controversy surrounding the show (I won’t get into the reasons here–just Google for more info), the protests took me by surprise last night. Rice Park was filled with people protesting, and I was handed a flyer on the way in, a flyer encouraging me to boycott. Obviously, I didn’t. 😉


St. Paul Ordway Performances of Miss Saigon run October 8 – 13,  2013. Get tickets at:

Also, tickets for the 2013 International Children’s Festival are available at the Ordway website ( or phone at 651.224.4222.

Due to course language and sexual themes, I would recommend this show for Mature Teens and older.

I would like to thank the Ordway Theater for providing this opportunity to review Miss Saigon. I have given my honest opinion about the opening night performance.

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