Determination will get you through this, is not the best fortune to get before reviewing a show I’ve always wanted to see at a theater I’ve never been to before. The evening started out well. Even though it took about two hours to reach the New Candlelight Theatre through 95 traffic and GPS misdirection, I was pleasantly surprised once I arrived. Waiting in the cozy lobby before being seated and greeted by the delightful waiter, Dan, was a pleasant start to the evening. The Asian-inspired specialty cocktails and hot buffet added to the anticipation of seeing MISS SAIGON on opening night. The fortune cookies were a nice touch, and I soon found out it didn’t take much determination to sit through this first-rate production featuring a talented cast who ignited some awe-inspiring moments.
Some of these moments include Sun and Moon, the duet between Kim (Dana Kreitz) and Chris (Anthony Connell), where the chemistry simmered between them, and you could really feel the love in the room. Unfortunately, it didn’t last, but that may have been because Thuy (Rick Fountas) intervened, and his overpowering seriousness overshadowed their delicate yet passionate love. Or, the new love could have been doused by a new woman, Ellen (Sharon Brown Ruegsegger). Her powerhouse performance during I Still Believe made me wonder what took her so long to grace the stage, but we only have the story line to blame.
The two responsible for bringing the ill-fated lovers together also had their share of scene-stealing. The Engineer (Paul Goodman) commanded the stage in his solos. Even when he was joined by the ensemble, he was not lost in the crowd. His sleazy and sneaky behavior was almost endearing, especially when entertaining tourists and insulting them at the same time. You can’t blame him for longing for the American dream, but you can laugh at his naivete.
Even though John (Dave Snyder) was an important part of Act I, it was his performance with the soldiers at the beginning of Act II that produced goosebumps. All the men had strong voices to carry Bui Doi, but Snyder definitely led the group by hitting all the right notes, and from the long applause afterward, it seemed the audience agreed.
Other highlights include the dramatic helicopter scene, which was successfully orchestrated with blowing fog and lowering lights. While the quality of the sound system was apparent and you could clearly hear most of the show, the background music upstaged some of the singing, especially Chris’s Why God, Why? where you could feel his strength only through his actions on stage.
I would have to say my date for the evening received a more fitting cookie fortune: You will soon be surrounded by good friends and laughter. While this wasn’t a comedy, I did find myself laughing over the sly and sleazy ways of the Engineer, the cuteness and innocence of Tam (Jonny/Jimmy Carroll), and at times I even giggled at some of the overdramatized acting of Thuy. From the way the cast interacted with each other on stage and with the audience before, during, and after the show, it did in fact feel like I was surrounded by good friends, and I would be honored to make the long journey down 95 again for another NCT production.
by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil,
with lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr.
Directed and Choreographed by Sonny Leo
January 27- March 11, 2012
New Candlelight Theatre
2208 Millers Rd.
Ardentown, DE 19810