Musical Review: Miss Saigon

Details: There is currently a revival of Miss Saigon on Broadway, but the version I saw originally had Lea Salonga in the lead role. The playbill says that it opened on Broadway in 1991. You can find the playbill for the original Broadway performance here:

When I think about the show Miss Saigon in the context of the current public and political discourse, it’s hard not to feel some discomfort. Miss Saigon is a musical that gave a lot of Asians a chance to perform on Broadway, a place with few if any roles for that ethnic group. Lea Salonga, now a Broadway legend, was discovered through Miss Saigon. On the other hand, Miss Saigon is your classic “white savior” story that takes place mostly in a whore house and has a lot of scantily clad Asian women running around on stage for a lot of the show.

Miss Saigon is a story that takes place at the end of the Vietnam War. A United States soldier meets a Vietnamese prostitute and they fall in love. The war then ends and the soldier leaves without the Vietnamese prostitute. He then marries and American woman but returns to Vietnam upon learning that the prostitute is alive and living under extenuating circumstances. Now they must decide what to do with themselves given the circumstances.

The story is pretty cliché, which isn’t to say it’s bad. As I’ve said before, it’s your classic “white savior” story. White guy goes to a foreign land and all hope lies in the white man. It’s pretty cliché and reminds me of The Last Samurai in a way. That most of the women in this show (most of whom are Asian) are dressed skimpily for most of the show doesn’t help. That Lea Salonga, the lead in the show was only seventeen when she was cast, is scantily clad for a lot of the show and whose character has a kind of jail bait-y feel also doesn’t help.

Fortunately, no matter how cliché or how bad a plot may be, musicals rely on their music as much as their stories and the music here is pretty great. The whole cast does a great job, but Lea Salonga knocks it out of the park. Any misgivings I have with Miss Saigon are almost entirely forgiven just because they discovered Lea Salonga through this show.

Overall, it’s an entertaining show with a weak story, but some good music. I probably would not bring a child to see it because of the subject matter and how much T & A is shown. Additionally, while Lea Salonga is no longer playing this show, I’ve seen some clips of Eva Noblezada in the revival and she sounds amazing in case you think about seeing the revival. I’ll leave a clip below.

Score: 6.5/10

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