Gritty Miss Saigon has Soul

misssaigonThe Vietnam War-era love story Miss Saigon was given a first-rate production by Encore Repertory Company at the Stadium Theater in Woonsocket. The show ran from May 6 through 8.

Sara LaFlamme gave a passionate and deeply moving performance as Kim, a young prostitute who falls in love with Chris, an American soldier stationed in Saigon. The couple’s happiness proves to be short-lived, however, as fate intervenes. Kim finds her past catching up with her and struggles to flee a country ravaged by war. She and her young son turn up in the red-light district of Bangkok, where scantily-clad hookers and hustlers roam the streets. This is a decadent world where anything goes. Cooper Cerulo’s Chris is a fundamentally decent man who finds himself torn between two women who he cares deeply about.

The music and lyrics, from composers Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil (Les Miserables), was beautiful and moving. Schonberg and Boublil drew their inspiration for Miss Saigon from the Puccini opera Madame Butterfly. My favorite songs were “Last Night of the World,” a lovely duet between Kim and Chris, “The Movie in My Mind” and “Sun and Moon.”


Brian Lopes gave a terrific supporting performance as The Engineer, a sleazy club owner who hopes for a better life in America, a place he envisions as a glamorous fantasyland. Lopes shined on “The American Dream,” a real showstopper that featured a giant replica of the Statue of Liberty and a pink convertible.

Samantha Hartley was enormously likable in the small but pivotal role of Ellen, Chris’ wife. Brandon Suprenant played John, Chris’ fellow soldier and best friend. Suprenant displayed some stellar vocals on the poignant “Bui-Doi,” which laments the plight of children born to American servicemen in Vietnam. Photos of these children were flashed on a giant screen on stage. It served as a chilling reminder of the consequences of war.

Becca Donald’s direction was tight, resulting in a fast-paced show.

There was an exciting sequence that recreated the fall of Saigon. We saw frantic Vietnamese residents outside the American embassy as helicopters arrive to evacuate the American soldiers. Some managed to escape this nightmarish landscape, while many others were left behind.

Miss Saigon has plenty of spectacle, but in the end the passionate relationship between star-crossed lovers Chris and Kim makes this show a treasure.