From the masterminds behind “Les Misérables,” the Broadway sensation “Miss Saigon” enthralled audiences with its tale of passion and heartbreak at Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W. Randolph St.).
Directed by Cameron Mackintosh, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s legendary musical opened for Broadway in Chicago Nov. 16 and has sold out all its shows except one.
The play, based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly,” boasts an impressive cast. “Miss Saigon” chronicles the passionate love story of 17-year-old Vietnamese girl Kim (Emily Bautista) and American G.I. Chris (Anthony Festa) who met in Saigon during the Vietnam War.
Having been recently orphaned, Kim is coerced by the Engineer (Red Concpción), the sleazy owner of a nightclub “Dreamland,” to work for him. A virgin, she draws the attention of the soldiers who frequent the club, among them Chris. While most of the men ogled over her in a lustful way, Chris was gripped to protect her. And he did — until he broke her heart after they were torn apart following the fall of Saigon.
The plot, while a satisfying one, is nothing short of cliche. A love story between a poor, innocent girl and a strong, ready-to-save-the-day G.I. is a story that’s been told time and time again, yet it’s one that continues to sell.
The romance between Chris and Kim develops in one night, and they become attached so quickly it’s almost difficult to believe, given such events rarely happen off-stage. Nonetheless, their passion is evident in their expressive body language, and audiences root for their love, despite knowing deep down it can’t last.
The performance follows the same whirlwind as Chris and Kim’s romance. The plot moves so quickly it was a struggle to keep up with everything as it happened.
In one of the numbers reprised throughout the entire production — “Sun and Moon” — Chris and Kim sing in amazement how quickly their relationship escalated from one of strangers to lovers in an evening. The same feeling the two lovers have for their relationship, audiences experience as they sit through the fast-paced nature of the play.
The entire cast did a fantastic job on-stage and successfully convinced audiences of their grief. The chemistry between the main actors was palpable, until curtain call when some might’ve questioned just how excited the cast was to receive a standing ovation on opening night.
“Miss Saigon” is perhaps most well-known for the scene where a helicopter flies over Saigon rescuing the American soldiers while leaving behind the distraught and desperate Vietnamese whose livelihoods suffered gravely as a result of the Vietnam War.
This scene doesn’t fall short of spectacular. The sound and lighting effects convince audiences for a moment that the helicopter will actually depart the stage and fly over the auditorium. The gravity and desperation in this moment tug at heartstrings, and it wouldn’t be surprising if audience members were fighting back tears.
If it took real effort to hold back tears during several scenes throughout the performance, the final moments opened the floodgates, leaving audiences sniffling and quietly weeping. The ending is alluded to earlier in the play during one of Kim’s heart-wrenching numbers “I’d Give My Life for You.” While abrupt and slightly predictable, audiences will likely be left in a sad state trying to piece together the past two hours.
Those who see “Miss Saigon” for the first time in its run at the Cadillac Palace will likely be impressed with the plot, cast and musical numbers of the film. Audiences familiar with the musical will walk out of the ornate theater with a feeling of familiarity and satisfaction.
“Miss Saigon” will run through Dec. 8. Tickets cost $35-$120 and can be purchased online at www.broadwayinchicago.com/show/miss-saigon.