Miss Saigon’s tale of love in ’70s Vietnam shines Downtown

Courtesy of Matthew Murphy
Anthony Festa and Emily Bautista star in the touring production of Miss Saigon.

Hannah Boucher | Staff Writer

02/06/20

A story of love, loss, war and sacrifice, Miss Saigon has made its way to Pittsburgh for one week only.

The cast sends you on an emotional rollercoaster as soon as the curtain rises. Jumping right into the story, audiences find themselves in Dreamland, a night club that makes its money off of selling booze and women to American marines.

The mastermind of Dreamland, the Engineer, is a very cunning man who takes advantage of men’s desires and the women’s goals to find a way to reach America. In this run of the show, the engineer is perfectly portrayed by Red Concepción. A true triple threat, the Engineer helps move this tragic show along, while still making people laugh.

Near the end of the show is one of his strongest numbers: “The American Dream.” Flashy, fun and a bit vulgar, it is a much-needed break from the emotional turmoil going on.

While “The American Dream” is definitely a stand-out number, most if not all songs in this show are incredible. It definitely tasks a certain caliber of singer to perform these emotional songs.

The female lead, Kim, played by Emily Bautista, carries the emotion of the show as she evolves from a scared village girl into a hopeful, strong woman, who is willing to do whatever it takes to protect her son Tam.

Her love-interest, Chris, is portrayed by the talented tenor, Anthony Festa. Festa brings passion to his performance as Chris, which is evident in every number he performs. His charming demeanor and kind heart win Kim — and audiences — over in no time.

Another stand out performance was in the role of John (J. Daughtry), Chris’ war buddy. Filling the theater with his smooth tone, both while singing and playing the saxophone, I only wish Daughtry had more opportunities to show off his singing.

Miss Saigon has a larger cast, but still manages to have a good balance of both solo scenes and ensemble numbers. In this instance, there is definitely power in numbers.

One of the most impressive group songs was in Act One when the year jumps from 1975 to 1978. A powerful performance with complicated choreography, the ensemble does a splendid job of staying in sync with one another when mimicking an army.

The technical direction in this production is on a whole other level. Between the massive set pieces that moved and the amazing lighting design, audiences will be completely mesmerized by the visual presentation before them.

In Act Two, when the Engineer, Kim and Tam find refuge in Bangkok, they find themselves back  where they started — at a club. In this particular scene, there are neon signs all over, bringing light back into the theatre.

A very unique show, Miss Saigon is definitely something to see if you have the opportunity. It is rare to find a show that truly depicts the harsh realities of life. It is refreshing and at times dark.

Tickets for Miss Saigon can be purchased on the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust website for the remaining performances. Running from now until Feb. 9, the times of the final showings can also be found on the website. However, tickets are limited.

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