Do We Miss Saigon? From the Makers of My Lai, Come Broadway’s ‘Copters and Cadillacs BY MICHAEL KING MISS SAIGON The Musical Music and Book by Claude-Michel Schonberg Lyrics by Alain Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr. The Cameron Macintosh Touring Production Directed by Nicholas Hytner September 2 THERE WERE NO DOUBT sentimental Roman theatricals about Caesar’ s bittersweet, romantic days slaughtering the Gauls and Picts, and those savage, melodramatic nights in the shadow of Hadrian’s Wall. Hollywood was of course founded upon shoot-’em-up mellers dreamily romanticizing the heroic pale conquest of the West. And we know as well of the lilting Nazi melodramas about the troublesome dust-ups, now and then, between the Paris Gestapo and that pesky French resistance, with its sinister Semitic allies. Those German tales have been memorialized in the breathless filmswithin-the-film of Kiss of the Spider Woman, wistfully transmitting the happy propagandist sentiment that Love Conquers Allbut especially Revolution. So it’s an eerily familiar world we enter on stage with Miss Saigon, currently hitting its Texas stride with a six-week run in Houston. This Franco-Anglo-American blockbuster \(like the Gulf War, sort of an touring, in the, lengthy wake of its 1989 London debut. The tour happily coincides with the U.S. declaration that Vietnam, rude as it was to us, is now civilized enough to buy our products. It may be a while before Miss Saigon is one of them. For anyone with more than headline knowledge of the actual history of the Vietnam War \(as a both a French and American whole this grandly sentimental story of doomed love grafted onto a thoroughly sanitized portrayal of the 1975 fall of Saigon. Undeniably, the love storya not entirely credible, uptempo version of Madame Butterflyis theatrically front and center. But looming everywhere around it is an instinctively mendacious, and ultimately selfdelusional, conqueror’s story of the war. As a work of dramatic art, Miss Saigon is a commercially spectacular exchange of lies between artists and audience. The surface narrative is a tale of starcrossed lovers. In the waning days of the weary of both combat and Saigon R&R, falls tempestuously in love with a naive Vietnamese showgirl, Kim \(Deedee Lynn abruptly and violently separated by the American evacuation, before Chris can know that Kim is pregnant with his child. Three years later, Chris learns that Kim has managed to travel to Bangkok with their son. Though he has since married an American bride, Chris hopes for a reunion with Kim and the child, but by circumstance and coincidence, tragedy shatters the reunion. Throughout, the love plot is shadowed by Eurasian hustler who first hires Kim for his showbar/brothel and later hopes to use her as his ticket to the U.S. Following yearson London and Broad .way and reams of press coverage, most of the Miss Saigon tour audience will be familiar with the bare bones of the plot. For a Cameron Macintosh show of this sort, the book is primarily a rope on which to hang a spectacle, which this one has in grandiose spades. Where Phantom of the Opera had its falling chandelier, Miss Saigon has its descending helicopter; where Cats had its psychedelic Ascension into Heaviside, Miss Saigon has its Cadillac Transubstantian of the American Dream. 20 AUGUST 11, 1995
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