Vietnam at the Palace
Some great performances, but few Asians in Palace Professional’s Miss Saigon
By Heidi Masek email@example.com
Miss Saigon opened at the Palace Theatre in Manchester with some standout performances Friday, April 13. The scene that most wowed the filled house was Angelo Rios’ performance of “Bui Doi” that opened the second act. He was backed by an excellent men’s choir for the song, in which a veteran preaches about his new cause of linking Vietnamese children fathered by American soldiers with their U.S. families.
Carol Angeli Feiger’s strong voice made for a powerful performance as Kim, the Vietnamese girl waiting for her American husband to return. This was the Palace debut for the Penn State graduate, but she has played the role before. Wally Calderon shouldered the pivotal role of “The Engineer,” Kim’s pimp, with finesse. Calderon is also the Palace’s artistic director for Youth Theatre, and has appeared in several of the venue’s professional shows. He leads several scenes as The Engineer, culminating with the finale “The American Dream,” which utilized more of Calderon’s dance skill.
Kaleigh Cronin as Gigi, crowned “Miss Saigon” at The Engineer’s bar and brothel, gave a powerful performance of “The Movie in My Mind.” Her performance made her seem much older than a woman about to start college as a freshman at Carnegie Mellon. She’s also appeared in Smokey Joe’s Cafe and Cats at the Palace.
Based on Puccini’s opera Madame Buttlerfly, Miss Saigon is entirely sung. Hence, some of the scenes or conversations are set up not unlike how Psalms are sung, holding one note until the last four syllables of the line.
A lot has to be packed into the beginning of Miss Saigon to get to the main conflict. The Palace’s production felt more choppy at the beginning than I remember the Broadway show being. The set-up moved so fast that it was a little hard to believe in the initial love story. However, the performers and the pace settled into a more convincing flow later in the first act, and continued throughout the second.
Miss Saigon ran from 1991 to 2001 on Broadway and premiered in London 1989, written by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil with lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr. Allegedly, there was controversy originally about a Caucasian actor playing The Engineer on Broadway. The Palace managed to find Asian actors to perform as Kim and her son, but that’s all. It’s initially kind of jarring to see a bunch of Caucasians in black wigs, in this show.
The Palace also distributed 2007-2008 season subscription forms at the show. The tentative professional line-up includes The Full Monty in September, West Side Story in October, Dream Girls in November and All Shook Up, Crazy For You, A Chorus Line, and La Cage aux Folles in the spring. The plays are subject to rights and availability changes.
Miss Saigon runs Friday, April 20, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, April 21, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Ticket costs range from $20 to $40, and tickets are available at 668-5588. Singin’ in the Rain closes this Palace professional season May 11 through May 19.