NODA review of Miss Saigon: School Edition

Performance: 19th November 2014

Review by Keith Pendall

Sharnbrook Mill theatre is always an interesting place to visit, as the company seem able to adapt any project they undertake to fit this charming venue. A full house for this school edition of, in my opinion, one of the most touching shows of recent years. For this production Director Paul Wildman did not disappoint in any way. He obviously put his heart and soul into making this one of the best amateur shows I have seen in a long time.

“Miss Saigon” has a very powerful score, and Mike Gibbons musical direction was superb, a large orchestra of very competent musicians  who the cast were able to follow without visibly following a conductor.  A very clever set was used, it appeared as very minimal but in fact was used to its full extent especially considering the scene in the compound with the fencing and the alleged helicopter, many congratulations to Paul and his set construction team for this. All of the costuming again was precise and well in keeping with the piece and congratulations to Virginia Pope and her team.

I find it very hard to believe the amount of talent that there was in the young and clearly very enthusiastic cast, I cannot imagine how they must have felt at the end of their final performance. Jasmine Bayes as Kim was superb in every way. For an adult it would have been difficult to portray all of the raw emotion and feeling that the part requires, but for a 14 year old it was amazing. Jasmine sang and acted with complete conviction and helped to carry the show from beginning to end. Her scenes with Tam, her child were so convincing you would have thought it was her child. Just to also add that little Hannah Te as Tam, Kim and Chris’s son was beautiful and you could see the audience warm to her as soon as she came on. Connor Tugulu as Chris, Kim’s love was also very competent and convincing for one so young. He is a handsome young man who again played the role very confidently. I just thought that some of the songs were a little high for him, but this of course did not distract from a powerful performance. Matthew Perren gave another very strong performance as the greasy and slimy engineer who uses the girls he pimps to the best of his advantage. His “American Dream” was a high spot of the show. Peter Bayes as Chris’s sidekick John again showed great maturity in his role and he has one of the best numbers in the show “Bui Doi” which was backed by a very melodious chorus and Peter sang the number with great conviction.  Amy Dunkley as Chris’s wife Ellen was another great performance. Such feeling in one so young. She had a beautiful voice, and I have to admit her and Kim’s duet “I still believe” brought more than a tear to my eye. I also think that Phoebe Spriggs as Gigi one of the Bar girls deserves a mention, she sang her part of “Movie in my mind” extremely well and with a stillness that fitted the number.

I could mention everybody individually as all the cast need to be congratulated. A lot of this is down to Paul and Mike as they clearly managed to get everything they wanted from such a talented cast. I may sound that there was nothing adverse to say about “Miss Saigon”, well that is because there wasn’t. Well done Sharnbrook Mill theatre trust for a wonderful evening. I never stand at the end of shows, but in this instance I felt it appropriate, and if I had not had such a busy week I would have happily come again for a second helping.