HP&P’s MISS SAIGON a Crowd Pleaser

by J. Gary Hellwig

MISS SAIGON, a musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, with lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr. is the second, massively successful offering from the creators of LES MISERABLES. Based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, it similarly tells the tragic tale of a doomed romance involving Chris, an American G.I., who falls for Kim, a young Vietnamese “Bar Girl”, while stationed in Saigon during the Vietnam War. His plan to bring her home is thwarted in the chaos of the evacuation of Saigon. Chris moves on over the years, but Kim fights to survive until she can reunite with Chris and the son he doesn’t know about.

Universal in its emotional power, and featuring showstopping numbers like “I Still Believe,” “Why God Why?” and “The American Dream”, the sung-through style score gives this Haddonfield cast ample opportunities to shine, some more successfully than others.

If you’ve seen a show here before, you realize there are certain limitations to presenting a grand scale musical like MISS SAIGON in this small intimate theatre in Haddonfield. Director Pat DeFusco uses every square inch of the stage and minimalist set design to tell the story. The use of creative lighting, projection effects, and instrumental tracks instead of a live orchestra delivers an effective punch.

Samantha Pruna plays the title role with understated elegance. Her obvious vocal training and perfect diction draw you into Kim’s plight with each lilting note. Pruna is romantically paired with newcomer Stephen McBride as Chris, who, though likable on stage, seems a bit out of his element, painfully emoting and struggling at times with the vocal demands of the part. Bryan M. Pitt takes on the role of the Engineer, the French-Vietnamese pimp whose best line is “If you wanna die in bed forget about your Karma”.

But the real standout performances are the secondary leads. Eileen Ashley as Ellen, the American wife of Chris is just wonderful, bringing a blend of gentle pathos and considerable vocal prowess. Jordan Dobson as the young Thuy struts his stuff with authority and Matthew Weil as John displays the right balance of empathy and power. And 3 year old Mason Romeo as Tam (who speaks no lines) wins over the audience on cuteness factor alone.

Particularly enjoyable is a ballet inspired dance sequence nicely choreographed by Erica Paolucci and beautifully performed by Devonn Duffin and Ken Hellings. Throughout the two acts the well rehearsed ensemble cast seamlessly conveys the powerfully dramatic nuances of the show.

HP&P’s production of MISS SAIGON runs through August 9th and is a must-see crowd pleaser. You won’t be disappointed.

Musical by Alain Boubil & Claude-Michel Schoenberg
Directed by Pat DeFusco
July 17 – August 9, 2014
Haddonfield Plays & Players
957 E Atlantic Ave
Haddonfield, NJ 08033


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