Eric Kunze and Jennifer Paz star as the ill-fated lovers in the CLOSBC’s production of ‘Miss Saigon.’
The Tony award-winning “Miss Saigon” is hovering over its helipad at the Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities for the next two weeks.
From the team that brought audiences “Les Miserables,” Alain Boublil and Claude Michel Schonberg implement similar themes for success in their second outing: a tragic historical event, theatrical spectacle and the ultimate in human sacrifice. The events of the show toy with the audiences’ mental moral compass and the actions of its players pull on the audiences’ emotional heart strings. The combination of the two creates a sincere cathartic theatrical experience. The mental and emotional impact of the show is why it is the 10th longest running play in Broadway history.
Based on Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly,” the plot is relocated to 1970s Saigon and the geisha is substituted for a Vietnamese bar girl while the lieutenant is transformed into an American GI. The GI is working for the American Embassy during the final days of America’s occupation. The two become separated as she is left carrying the soldier’s unborn child. Not only is the plot similar to Puccini’s masterpiece, but the musical and emotional demands placed on the performers are also equal in intensity. The show’s climax and corresponding musical crescendo briskly build toward a soul-shattering primal scream.
Director Stephanie A. Coltrin is perceptive to the histrionic and emotional traps the show conceals, and she avoided these traps with pace and balance. The show’s acting, setting and musical transitions are seamless; a whirlwind of activity is happening on stage while the lovers appear to be in the quiet eye of the storm.
Coltrin’s actors balance the high emotional peaks of the show with a coolness that tempers; passionate moments do not overstep the modesty of nature. The casting of the show incorporates veterans of Broadway and national touring companies. Jennifer Paz, Eric Kunze, Misty Cotton, Harrison White, Bonifacio Deoso Jr. and Kevin Bailey understand how to marry the emotional and intellectual demands of the book and score. From the principals to the ensemble, this is a top-notch company of players.
Musical director Alby Potts and his talented men and women in the pit rattle the rafters with Schonberg’s music. The CLOSBC production team does an exceptional job with a show that is heavy on the spectacle; helicopters flew in and out and a pink Cadillac Seville rolled on and off stage, and it all seemed surprisingly easy. Well, what is one to expect from a production team that rebuilt the Titanic? “Miss Saigon,” as presented by CLOSBC, is a heart-wrenching musical experience that should not be missed.
‘Miss Saigon’ runs through Sunday, May 18, with 8 p.m. shows, and matinees will take place Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m..
The Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center is located at 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd. in Redondo Beach.
For more information, call (310) 372-4477 or visit www.civiclightopera.com