Pittsburgh, PA
February 23, 2019
    News           Sports           Lifestyle           Classifieds           About Us
A & E
Tv Listings
The Dining Guide
Headlines by E-mail
Home >  A & E Printer-friendly versionE-mail this story
A & E
Stage Review: CLO stages triumphant 'Miss Saigon'

Monday, June 09, 2003

By John Hayes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The hype on "Miss Saigon" is always about the spectacle. But it's a spectacular story, equally about a nation that lost a war and a woman who lost a man.

Perhaps one of the best things about this nation is that in a mid-sized city such as Pittsburgh, a regional theater company can stage a musical as challenging and as expensive as "Miss Saigon" with such class and professionalism. It's not an accident that the construction team at Pittsburgh CLO's South Side set shop built from scratch a set that is famous for its complexity. And it's no accident that CLO had the financial and artistic resources to recruit top-level talent who've brought "Miss Saigon" to life before.

"Miss Saigon"

WHERE: Pittsburgh CLO at Benedum Center, Downtown

WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays; also 1 p.m. June 12; through June 22.

TICKETS: $12-$44; 412-456-6666.


This production is director-choreographer Barry Ivan's second crack at the show. Alan H. Green has played John, the supportive Marine buddy, and Jessica Hendy has played Ellen, the supportive wife, in previous productions. Kevin Gray picked up two stage awards for his work on "Miss Saigon." Philippines-born Ma-Anne Dionisio is practically a full-time Kim, having played the brave, determined Vietnamese woman in Canadian, Australian and British productions. CLO was able to mount a first-rate production of a first-rate show because it has invested itself in acquiring first-rate resources and a theater-community reputation to match it.

"Miss Saigon" is a gripping love story set during and several years after the American withdrawal from Vietnam. But on another level, the story of soldier Chris, Vietnamese orphan Kim and a pimp who "engineers" illicit commerce is a metaphor for the best and worst of America. Credit Ivan for digging deep enough to offer that much insight.

Brian Noonan, the only principal actor who hasn't done "Miss Saigon" before, gives the soldier a clean-cut honesty and typically American innocence. He's got a voice big enough to forgo the microphone, yet he eases into warm harmonies with Dionisio.

At times, Kim's stubbornness and desperation seem absolutely real. With so much experience in the role, Dionisio has Kim down cold. It can be beautiful to behold, and with the turn of a phrase, it's chilling.

In a long scene near the finale, the dark entrepreneur, The Engineer, sums up the soul of "Miss Saigon" in "The American Dream." When the backlights drop and the orchestra quiets to a few piano chords, it's just Kevin Gray. Virtually naked. No place to hide. Gray practically reaches out and grabs every member of the audience by the throat, driving home the message that it's survival of the fittest and damn those who only dream. Gray takes an over-the-top role and makes it outrageously human.

In supporting roles, Hendy exemplifies a buttoned-down view of America, Emily Hsu is compelling as a Saigon prostitute, and, on opening night, Mt. Lebanon's Kevin Quache-Le showed more poise than a 7-year-old should. And Ivan's mass choreography and smart foreshadowing built to giant special effects.

Oh, yeah -- the spectacle. It is simply one of the best of the 20th century. Slip out of the spell and remember that it's not the ongoing Broadway tour -- it's a local production, and landing a helicopter inside the Benedum Center seems all the more remarkable.

With skanky bikini bumps and grinds, adult language and frank and mature subject matter, "Miss Saigon" is a show that should be watched while the baby sitter watches the kids.

John Hayes can be reached at jhayes@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1991.

Back to top Back to top E-mail this story E-mail this story
Search | Contact Us |  Site Map | Terms of Use |  Privacy Policy |  Advertise | Help |  Corrections