The Making of Miss Saigon
London's West End is often coming under fire for 'appealing to the masses' in that it stages musicals all the time rather than 'straight' plays. I can understand this up to a point, as many are rather lacklustre resurrections of already established shows, often using those famous for TV performances to pull in the crowds.
Miss Saigon was something different, loosely based on 'Madame Butterly', but relocated to the Vietnam war, and appeared at around the same time as 'Born on the Fourth of July', Distant Thunder' and 'Good Morning Vietnam'. It seemed the time was right for something a little different in musical-land.
A very basic, but quite clear digital mono sound, with no obvious problems.
A little grainy (ok, actually very grainy), but this is to be expected from what seems to be the original source with little or no improvement from the original source material. A little like a VHS you may have found down the back of your sofa...after a few years.
This is the sort of documentary I would have quite happily recorded on VHS when it first came out (probably on a Sunday evening) all those years ago and then dipped into once or twice in the ensuing 19 years, if it was wet outside, and I had a friend round who quite liked musicals.
I played in this show for three nights in the early nineties, and so have fond memories of my first break into 'the big time'. As a personal nostalgia-fest, it is unimssable. As something you may want to buy yourself, then perhaps it's only for those who have an interest in the show itself, or in the careers of those who were involved in making it.
Several scenes appear staged (no pun intended), but this could be because of the necessary editing of what was probably several hours more footage (especially of the auditions for the principal roles). Lea Salonga - and it was great to see her again! - appears as if out of nowhere, and is suddenly given the role of Kim. Another little gripe concerns the casting of Jonathan Pryce. He was absolutely fantastic in the role, but only appears after around 40 minutes and there is no mention of how he got it.
As an aside (and indeed a new paragraph), it would have been nice to have some form of extra, if one were made of course, about the difficulties experienced in transferring the show to Broadway, but we have none.
The positive aspects in this release abound. It is great to see discussions between theatrical greats suchs as Mackintosh, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil as they develop the show, and the audition process puts programmes such as the X-Factor to shame, in that the concept of 'encouragement' is used, rather than blind abuse. Here, the difference is that those on the panel know what they are talking about.
Though not being a full performance by any means, it's obvious why Salonga was chosen as the lead, and Simon Bowman (who trained at the Mountview Theatre Academy, a fine school with whom I played violin in 'Titanic! (The Musical)' earlier this year, and which went down very well - sorry, had to get that one in) impresses.
It would also have been nice to focus a little on some of the musicians in the band, but then again pit players are used to such oversights, and in general are far too modest to express opinions.
This is a bit of a novelty item, but one of great interest to anyone who likes musicals, and I really think it's time someone considered making a film. It has great tunes, fine orchestrations, a subject which never fails to grab the attention...and has nothing to do with Andrew Lloyd-Webber.