The Broadway musical tells the story of an American G.I. and a young Vietnamese girl who fall in love at the end of the Vietnam War. Some call the musical a romance in the tradition of “Romeo and Juliet” in an “East-meets-West” setting; others say it romanticizes sex trafficking while perpetuating negative stereotypes of Asian men and women.
Twin Cities critics were unimpressed by the production. Here’s how they saw it:
I tried to see beyond the play, to enjoy the performances. And, indeed, the actors are terrific…But Miss Saigon made enjoying all this talent impossible. There is no escaping the fact that the story these artists serve is poisonous. The Asian characters are sexualized and trivialized: whores, pimps, mindless politicos, killers, nasty pieces of work all. Other characters are horny GIs, horny sex tourists. Or mindless airheads, johns who fall in love with hookers after a single encounter. As subject matter the Vietnam War is a minefield and Miss Saigon triggers every one.
Is it a good production? In pace and energy, yes, as it flies by at mercifully breakneck speed. But it’s so bombastic as to leave you feeling as if you’ve been shouted at for the better part of three hours. Most of the leads turn up the emotional (and actual) volume to such a degree that even the most tender love ballad is belted and blared at you, full of overwrought imitation intensity. It’s as if they believe that this weak material might work if they just yell it at you.
“Miss Saigon” had an uneven sound mix in the first act, with the orchestra often overpowering the singers. The production got better and clearer in the second half, evening out and becoming more nuanced, even if the narrative remains one where Asia becomes the backdrop for an old Western story.
“Miss Saigon” runs through Oct. 13 at the Ordway. Have you seen the show? If so, what did you think?