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Theatre Review: Miss Saigon

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, August 25, 2011

Let's say it up front - you won't see a helicopter in the Music Circus version of "Miss Saigon." Nor does a full-sized car appear on stage. Those spectacular effects, heavily promoted trademarks in past productions, aren't feasible on the compact Music Circus stage. So this production emphasizes the story, the music, the acting and the dancing.

The results are mixed. The good news is that actress Ma-Anne Dionisio, playing the Vietnamese girl Kim, is strong and sympathetic. She's determined to be guided by her love for an American soldier.


That music comes from this production's lovely wedding scene, which, because it isn't competing directly with a noisy helicopter, stands out more than usual in this human-scale staging.

The not-so-good news is that without the dazzling distractions, "Miss Saigon's" structural problems are easier to see. This story of wartime love and abandonment aims for poignant tragedy, but more closely resembles turgid melodrama. And even though the original production played for years on Broadway, "Miss Saigon" never launched a hit song. The music is ordinary, and the lyrics are plodding.

(The Heat Is On in Saigon)

The show features some odd costume choices, including one scene with acrobatic men in red pantaloons - they look like they were beamed in from another show with some sort of Ali Baba theme.

All in all, this is an uneven show - some scenes click and grab your attention, while others miss the mark. It's also one of those rare shows where the second half actually stacks up better than the first. So even if you're a tad underwhelmed at intermission, it's worth sticking around.
Music Circus  presents "Miss Saigon" through Sunday at the Wells Fargo Pavilion.
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