note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone
Becca keeps the show in constant motion and brings out the best in her cast with her insightful direction and blocking. Mark's nonstop conducting and playing lead keyboards of the 64 musical numbers is astounding. He makes the cast and the 8 piece orchestra sound splendid in this sung thru musical. Some of the numbers in this score sound like "Les Miserables", "The King & I", "Cabaret", "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Evita." The standout group harmonies are in "Movie in My Mind" as the girls envision leaving Saigon, "The Wedding Song" where Chris and Kim pledge themselves to each other, "The Heat is On in Saigon" and "Bui Doi." Show stopping harmonies occur in "This is The Hour" and "Morning of the Dragon." The dance numbers by choreographer Meaghan Bruneault include the sex shop dance by the girls, the marching of the Viet Cong, ballet, and patriotic dance with a soft shoe and kick line to "The American Dream." The set is by Wayne Boucher while the costumes are by Teal Griswold.
Leading this multitalented cast is Sara LaFlamme as Kim. She has a powerhouse voice which fills the theatre with her strong soprano voice. Sara's many solos include "Unicorn", "Sun and Moon" reprise and "I Will Give Life To You" which she sings to her son. Her other numbers include "Movie in My Mind", and the many ballads with Chris including "Kim and Chris Dance", "This Money's Yours", the gorgeous duets, "Sun and Moon" and "Last Night of the World" with a fabulous saxophone solo in it as well as "Please" with Chris' best friend, John. Sara's other duets include "I Still Believe" and "Kim and Ellen" with Ellen. Sara delivers a heartfelt and gut wrenching performance as Kim. The biggest scene stealer in the show is Brian Lopes as the Engineer, who supplies the GI's by supplying them with girls in his sex shop called Dreamland. Later on he entices tourists in a Bangkok sex shop. Brian delivers the comic moments needed to escape the harsh realities of the war. The Engineer is reminiscent of the Emcee in "Cabaret." His baritone voice is superb. Brian's most impressive numbers are "If You Want to Die in Bed" which vocally reminds you of Judas in "Superstar", in "Bangkok" where he sells his wares in the sex shop and in the well known vaudeville type song, "The American Dream" where he sings and dances about finally escaping to America while hilariously humping a Chevy onstage. Cooper Ceruolo is magnificent as Chris, playing the role with the necessary anguish and pathos the part calls for. His tenor voice soars off the charts in "Why, God, Why?" where he wonders why he finally found the girl of his dreams in hellish Vietnam. This song is reminiscent of "Younger Than Springtime" from "South Pacific." Cooper also excels in his duets with Sara, "Sun and Moon" and "The Last Night of the World" which displays the raw emotions of being in love but unable to control your destiny, and in the emotion packed "The Revelation" with Chris' best friend, John. Cooper's show stopping number comes when he breaks down in tears during "The Confrontation" song with John and Ellen. It is definitely a gut wrenching and tear jerking sequence that moves the audience to tears. Young Honesto Aguinaldo captures your heart from his first entrance to the end of the show as Kim and Chris' son, Tam.
Chris' best friend, John is splendidly played by Brandon Suprenant who makes this soldier buddy into a warm and caring friend. He eventually helps Chris find his long lost son. Brandon uses his terrific voice to sell the emotion packed, "Bui Doi" which opens the second act and is sung with perfect harmonization by the male chorus while slides of real life Vietnamese children play in the background. He also sings in many numbers including the helicopter escape "Please" with Kim as well as "The Confrontation." Chris' American wife, Ellen is excellently played by Samantha Hartley. She conveys her confusion at Chris' bad dreams and behavior and the eventual realization of the horrors he suffered in Vietnam. Samantha's fantastic voice is heard in the counterpoint song with Kim called "I Still Believe" and in the confrontation songs called "Room 317" with Kim as well as "The Confrontation." Her solo "Now That I've Seen Her" is splendid as she realizes Kim's plight and stops the show with her powerful rendition. Kim's cousin Thuy who she was pledged to be married to which was made by her parents, is wonderfully played by Ting Lik To. Thuy is the villain of the show who tries to take Tam away from Kim. oozes the right amount of evilness as this repressive agent of the Viet Cong. He displays his topnotch voice in "Thuy's Intervention", "The Morning of the Dragon", "The Coo Coo Princess", "Thuy's Death" and "The Nightmare." Amanda Palmer shines as Gigi, one of the Engineer's girls and displays her voice in the opening montage, the wedding song and in "Movie in My Mind." Kudos to everyone in the show including the singing and dancing chorus. So for a marvelous musical treat, be sure to catch "Miss Saigon" by Encore Repertory Company at the Stadium Theatre. Tell them Tony sent you. You definitely won't be disappointed.