The musical “Miss Saigon,” Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra’s 20th anniversary production, is a fine way for CATS to celebrate two decades of increasing professionalism and theatrical quality.
This play is an ambitious undertaking, utilizing more than 20 actors, numerous technical effects, many costumes and wigs, as well as six musicians plus Sinfonia (a software program that includes all the band parts in the orchestration not played by live instruments), melodiously conducted by musical director, Jeffrey Mason.
And there is music throughout, with the actors singing most of their lines, more like in an opera than a traditional musical.
This is a complex production and the CATS crew can be proud of a job well-done.
“Miss Saigon,” by Claude-Michel Schonberg, Richard Maltby, Jr. and Alain Boublil, is based on the Puccini opera, “Madama Butterfly,” but transfers the action from the Japan of “Butterfly” to Vietnam immediately before the fall of Saigon.
The play opened in London in 1989, running for a record 10 years. It also ran on Broadway for almost 10 years, being nominated for 11 Tony Awards, winning three.
When the lights come up on the excellent set, designed by Pamela Hodges in drab colors to evoke a war-torn Saigon, a naive 17-year-old Vietnamese village girl, Kim, has been brought to work in a sleazy bar run by the Engineer, an unscrupulous French/Vietnamese moneygrubber.
Chris, an American GI, becomes interested in her and they quickly fall in love.
When Saigon falls to the Viet Cong, Chris is forced to leave without her.
For three years Kim holds out hope of Chris’s return, but he has married an American woman.
When Chris finds out from his friend John that Kim bore his child, Chris and his wife travel to Bangkok where Kim now works, with the end result that Kim sacrifices herself so that her child will go to a better life in America.
The plot and quality acting elicit sympathy — if you don’t leave with a tear in your eye, you weren’t paying attention.
The actors, led by the well-cast April Lam as the trusting, selfless Kim and David Holmes as the conflicted Chris, are generally strong.
The standout is Jared Lee as the Engineer, with his fine voice and smooth moves, reeking of slickness while widely caricaturing American values.
Additionally, Jay Barker as John sings and acts with emotional power.
Director Susan Mason does a fine job of integrating and moving her large cast on and off and around the stage, as well as utilizing all of the niches of the very functional set, assisted by lively choreography designed by Haven Caravelli.
Lighting designed by Erin Beatie and sound by D.R. Chris Christensen create exactly the right atmosphere. Costumes by Jill Kelly are spot-on as are hair and make-up by Sara Quay.
If you like good acting, singing and dancing, with an opera-style romance, you will enjoy “Miss Saigon.”
Support this fine community theater group by attending their production, continuing at the Nevada Theatre through May 10th.
Hindi Greenberg greatly enjoys attending a good theatrical show and CATS provides that experience. But what giant step can they take for next year’s production since “Miss Saigon” was such a big leap forward? Stay tuned.