>reviewed by daniel teo
1 aug 2001
"I think if someone is going to come into the show and look at it very black and white, you are going to miss the whole point of the show. It's a love story. The war is the background." Deedee Lynn Magno, lead actress MISS SAIGON.
There's really nothing more you can say about the mixed politics of MISS SAIGON. How it perpetrates the anachronistic stereotype of the East as the weaker feminine essence waiting for the masculine western power to rescue her from her life, yes we all heard it before. Edward Said has said it all for you and I rolling our eyes at the supposedly Asian music playing on cue whenever Miss Saigon, Kim, steps on stage.
But what you can talk about is MISS SAIGON at Kallang Theatre.
evocative panels of rice paper blinds, the impressive sets were clearly
the work of the formidable company that brought us Singapore's first few
musicals: LES MISERABLES, CATS AND PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. From the enormous
Ho Chi Minh statue flanked by equally huge posters of more Uncle Ho portraits
to the elaborate setup of an authentic mini-Thai go-go bar street, the
sets were hauntingly poignant and obviously labours of expensive love.
Remember the boat that sails across the Kallang Theatre floor in the PHANTOM
OF THE OPERA? Well MISS SAIGON has its own helicopter to boot and it was
definitely a sight to behold (and to hear)!
>>The love between Kim and Tam, the unconditional love of a mother, carried the entire night on its weary back.'
Cliffton Hall as Chris, however, didn't have as much luck, as his uneven performance carried him on an emotional high one moment and in the next moment his somewhat contrived swagger brought on the déjà vu of a bad daytime soap. While he certainly looked the part of Chris, there were moments where his emotional grasp of his character could have done with more work.
As a result,
the love story between Kim and Chris was lacking in bite and depth. Yes
they held hands, they talked about the sun and moon and they made love
but they didn't really seem all that in love with each other. Juxtaposed
with Kim's love for her child, it seemed like teenage puppy love - which
might be the point to heighten the sense of pathos, except it wasn't consistent
with the omnipotent war in the background and the characterisation of
both Kim and Chris.
It's a love story all right - have no doubts about it. It's the love between a young mother learning how to love and a child carrying the burden of his parents' guilt and hopes. As the songs come to an end and the lights start to fade, it won't be the ao dai or the giant Ho Chi Minh statue (okie maybe that might stick ) you remember.
It is the
face of a mother, fierce with determination and sorrow, that will stay