"the gross and scope of my opinion ..." Hamlet I,1.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Talent at the Civic Theatre
not every group that has the vision, or the resources, to stage Miss
Saigon. Tomorrow's Talent, directed as a labour
of love by Gavin Wilkinson, with Emma Tapley, have got things right
on every level. The music, with accomplished young singers [MD Mark
Sellar] and a strong pit band [including that vital saxophone]
conducted by Patrick Tucker. The casting, with amazing performances
from all the principals. And the staging, with Dreamland, the Embassy
compound and much more wheeled seamlessly on and lit to often
stunning effect. The closing of Act One is a masterpiece of
stagecraft – red flags processing beyond a blue doorway, stunning
acrobatics - as is the helicopter, despite the lack of airspace above
the Civic stage. This is a company of 85, and the huge choruses are
thrillingly effective, in Bui Doi, say, or the grim-faced masses in
The Morning of the Dragon. The cynical show-stopper, American Dream,
is brilliantly presented, with glitter-curtain, star-spangled blonde
chorines and wholesome citizens of the Land of the Free.
and again I find myself mentally applauding a heart-stopping moment:
those flags, that helicopter, the Chinese lantern backdrop, the
lighting of the shrine scene, the bar-girls huddling in wide-screen
format [for Movie in My Mind], leaving the GIs dancing with thin air,
the unlikely family walking upstage to freedom, the iconic angry sun,
the final tragic tableau, the fall of Saigon, with the desperate refugees waving their pathetic letters, and the ballet of the barricades
allowing us to see the wire fences from every aspect.
work from every single performer – from the chorus member giving
100% to Bui Doi to the talented leads who bring maturity and
experience, as well as youthful enthusiasm, to these demanding roles.
Lambert is an impassioned Chris [Pinkerton for Butterfly collectors]
– relaxed and natural on stage, but packing a hefty emotional punch
in his Why God soliloquy.
friend, later an impressive President of the charitable foundation,
is Ollie Fox. Jessica Moore is stunning as Gigi, the seen-it-all
stripper who is the original Miss Saigon, and James Murphy is Kim's
blinkered betrothed, making a great impact as the ghostly
guilt-figure in Act II.
a luxury to be able to double-cast so many of the characters – and
a testament to the ability of the company's aspiring actors. I was
privileged to see both casts.
the plum role of The Engineer, Andrew Steel makes the most of this
sleazy survivor, who speaks Uncle Ho but thinks Uncle Sam, making him
bitter and manipulative, and giving a goose-bumps virtuoso
performance of American Dream. Joshua Butcher skilfully uses his
voice and his body language to suggest the half-French Vietnamese,
and seems a little more vulnerable, and more likeable. Every bit as
effective in the big number, too.
the innocent victim of war, is superbly sung by Alice Masters, a
totally convincing 17-year-old who is also able to nail the
considerable emotional depth of the character. Laura Messin too –
her insight into the tragic world of the "new princess" was
incredible, hurt and angry at events beyond her control.
Chris's American wife, is wonderfully done by Zoe Rogers – her
vocal ability outstanding even in this exalted company – sharing
the role with the excellent Emma Bennett, who successfully suggests
the conflicting emotions in this tragic triangle.
a tearful final curtain, those actors leaving for some of the
country's leading drama schools were urged to return for a tenth
anniversary reunion production. Tiny Tam [beautifully disciplined
work from Jonah Miller/Joseph Papalie] would be old enough to take a
lead, then. And what of those determined, ambitious drama students ?
Will they be on a cruise ship in the Far East, or like Wilkinson, working
in the war-torn West End ? Watch this space.