Saturday, February 13, 2010

Seeing Miss Saigon at TUTS by Maggi

Intense is the word I would use to describe this incarnation of Miss Saigon.  I realized my hands were shaking as I put on my coat to leave.   Each of the cast had been  so believable I realized I was transported to another time and place.  This was a world so different from my own, but the motivations and characterizations made it feel very familiar.  Love and passion at first sight, a mother's love for her child, a wife's love for her husband were themes I could understand and I felt I had lived through all those emotions in the span of 2-1/2 hours. 

Eric and Philip Michael Baskerville (John) were in the first national tour of Miss Saigon together in the 90's and Melinda and Eric worked on the show together a few years ago.  Their history as friends and co-stars shows on stage.  There were no awkward moments. Their dialogue and songs were as seamless as a well oiled machine.  Director Bruce Lumpkin did an admirable job, especially during the difficult and frantic evacuation scene.  Joseph Anthony Foronda took the flashy role of the engineer to a new level of smarminess.  His transformation from nightclub owner to groveling peon of the new regime and back again was a joy to watch.  As Ellen, Jessica Rush strikes a perfect balance between a sympathetic understanding of Kim's plight and her fierce desire to fight for her husband's love.  I especially loved the rich tone of her voice in "Now That I've Seen Her". 

Each time I see the show (I saw it on tour in the 80's and four times at last year's Muny presentation) I pick up something new.  This may seem obvious to everyone else, but it's the first time I realized the foreshadowing of Kim's death (Melinda Chua) singing to her son Tam in her beautifully performed song "I'd Give My Life For You".  The storyline was clearer to me in this production, a testament to the cast's diction and timing.  I understood every word. 

The TUTS production is steamier, sexier and grittier than I have seen before, a brave move on director Bruce's part.  If it weren't for the sad ending, it's perfect for a Valentine's Day date!  No one in the audience seemed to complain.  All the comments I overheard on the way out were superlative.

All right, ladies, here's what you have been waiting for.   How was Eric in the show?  Better than ever!  He just keeps improving with each show.  His commitment to the part is 100% each and every show. An orchestra member who has accompanied Eric in many productions told me he is the gutsiest performer they have ever seen.  This is not an easy part to do.  He has to convey tired cynicism, giddy first love, lust, anger, frustration and grief.  This is a very physical role and I can't imagine how he will do this twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday.  He is very physically fit and looks it (thanks to Bruce who allows us more than a glimpse of that fabulous physique a couple of times in the first act).   

I can't end this review without a shout-out to the conductor Thom Culcasi and the orchestra.  As a musician, I know from experience the speed and rhythms right from the very first notes make this is a particularly difficult score to play, but they carried it off with precision.  The whole show really was perfect from start to finish.  I'm so glad I will get to see it again four more times this weekend.  Stay tuned! 

God bless and good night!

1 comment:

diva donna said...

Great Review Maggie,
I've yet to see this show. But through your eyes. I feel I was able to be with you. And I know Eric is a GREAT artist. And I've only have had the pleasure of seeing him 3 times. I'm not able to be the world Traveler that you are. I really hope someday to get the chance to see and hear Eric again. Thanks for Sharing your awesome memories and experiences and ERIC.