The Heat Is On

June 12th, 2010

Today, my parents and I went to see Miss Saigon. Miss Saigon was one of the very first musical performances that I saw live on stage when I was in high school and I was absolutely captivated. I came back mesmerized, bought the CD, and proceeded to listen to it day and night. All I wanted for Christmas that year was to go again — and my parents lovingly obliged.

That was ten years ago, and the show is as amazing as ever. If you come out of a production of Miss Saigon dry eyed, you have no soul. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but that’s just the way it is.

Here’s a quick summary. The entire production was born out of a particularly heart-rending picture of a Vietnamese mother putting her half-blood child on a plane to go to America to live with his GI father. The story is set around the fall of Saigon and several years thereafter and has some stark things to say about the impact of the American presence in Vietnam.

Our star-crossed lovers (because it wouldn’t be an opera if it weren’t a tragedy) are Chris and Kim. Kim is a naive country girl who finds herself in a prostitution dance bar due to some rough circumstances. As luck would have it, on her first night on the job, she meets Chris, a disillusioned GI who falls in love with her innocence and beauty.

They spend a few weeks together, and he promises to take her back to the US with him as his wife. Fast forward three years (the show does, with very little warning). Something has gone awry. We meet Kim again, living in poverty in Vietnam and dreaming of the day that Chris returns. Chris meanwhile is living in America with a pretty blond wife.

Oops. What gives?

We also learn — though Chris doesn’t know — that Kim bore him a son. The plot thickens.

In a flashback, we learn the whole story. Chris and Kim’s blissful plans are torn apart by the sudden fall of Saigon. Chris and Kim are separated and she is unable to fight her way onto the army base to make the evacuation. He tries to go back for her but fails to find her and is whisked away in a helicopter (cool, cool scene).

Long story short, Chris learns of Kim’s survival and of his son. He and Ellen (the wife) travel to Bangkok, where Kim is living to see her and try to make amends for leaving her. Kim’s visions of a joyful reunion turn sour when she meets Ellen. Her desperate Plan B is for Chris and Ellen to take her son back to the States where he’ll live a better life. But they’re not so keen on this idea.

Sensing that the door is closing, Kim forces their hand. She shoots herself.

Yeah. See. I told you. Crying is not optional.

Miss Saigon has some of the most stunning gorgeous music I’ve ever seen and, when done well (which this was), the raw emotion of the production takes your breath away. If you haven’t seen it, do so. Right now.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a CD to find…

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