John Szablewski Reviews

Theatre Review: ‘Miss Saigon’ at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre

The National Touring Cast of “Miss Saigon.” Photo b Matthew Murphy.

There are those shows that you just need to see. You hear about them for years. They have a place in popular culture, and they leave an impact on their audiences. I remember hearing “they land a real helicopter on stage!” Until this evening, I have never seen anything like it. “Miss Saigon” is an experience that took all of my emotions, mixed them together, and threw me onto a rollercoaster of excitement, joy, sadness, and fear. It is one of the most excellent theatrical experiences I have ever been present for. I will never forget this show.

Turn up the heat, and go see this show!

“Miss Saigon” tells the story of the Vietnam war. A group of Marines go to visit a small club where all of their “dreams” can come true. There, the ladies of the night will help the Marines take the edge off, and get their minds off of the terrible events that are happening around them during this tragic event in history. Kim (Emily Bautista) is a young 17 year old girl, who comes to Dreamland, searching for a way to America after her village was burned to the ground. While she is there, she is enlisted by the Engineer (Red Concepción) to become one of his girls, and to work for him. On her first evening, she is purchased by Chris (Anthony Festa) and the two spark an instant connection. Perhaps this one night in ‘dreamland’ won’t end so abruptly? The two fall in love and consummate the evening, Chris making a promise to Kim that he will take her to America. After they are separated and Chris leaves, he is riddled with guilt until he is able to create a new life for himself in America. The problem? Chris has a son, and Kim wants him to know it.

This musical is the second collaboration of Boublil and Schöneberg, who brought us “Les Miserables,” and it just so happens that I saw that show for the first time earlier this season in Rochester. “Miss Saigon” has many similarities to that of ‘Les Miz,” great music, fantastic singing, amazing effects, and length (my God, is this show long), but it is fantastic and is truly an experience that I suggest anyone who considers themselves an avid theatre-goer attend.

Leading the show as Chris is Anthony Festa, and let me tell you, there has not been a more heartfelt performance on the Shea’s stage in some time. The pain and hurt that Festa brings to his character is just so raw and real. You instantly connect to his Chris and you can only pray that you never have to experience what this man has gone through. Festa is phenomenal.

Emily Bautista takes the innocence of Kim, as a 17 year old girl, and plays it up. In the first five minutes of the show my heart broke for her, that she was in a position to have to give her body over for money just to make a life for herself. My heart broke again when she finds out that Chris moved on without her in America, and it breaks a third time (someone call me a cardiologist) at the end of the show when a tragic event occurs. Bautista too, brings raw emotion to the stage, and her and Festa’s performance of “The Last Night Of The World” is perfect.

Red Concepción is fantastic as the Engineer, the comic relief, in this very dense and emotional unloading of a  story. He welcomes you at the beginning, you love to laugh at him, and you love to hate him. His performance of “The Heat Is On In Saigon” and “The American Dream” are fantastic. You will not be disappointed.

The ensemble of the this show deserves just as much applause as the principals. Forty-two actors grace the stage in this company, making this one of the largest casts to visit Buffalo.

Not only is “Miss Saigon” a story that makes you appreciate what you have, it is a story that needs to be told. Turn up the heat, and go see this show!

Running Time: 2 Hours 45 Minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

Advisory: Adult language and implied nudity

“Miss Saigon” runs until March 3, 2019 and is presented at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre. For more information, click here.