The Walking Wounded

The book by Boublil and Sch”nberg is sometimes witty, and at its best when the authors play with time by using flashbacks and flashforwards. But the story consists of too much plot and too little characterization. Despite the fast-paced action, the production sometimes bogs down, particularly when Boublil and Sch”nberg contrive long pointless scenes ostensibly designed to highlight the Engineer's central role and his symbolic representation of corruption and evil.

Kudos should be given to the following: Nicholas Hytner for neat, clean direction; Bob Avian for marvelous musical staging; John Napier for an incredible production design, and David Hersey for equally stellar lighting. Among the cast, Raul Aranas as the Engineer, Jennifer C. Paz as Kim, and Charles E. Wallace as John (a friend of Chris who sets up the initial date with Kim in Saigon) perform well if not brilliantly. Only Wallace, in fact, keeps his acting honest and powerful without once going over the top. Most of the others emote as though the style of performance is in competition with the grandiosity of the scenery. Paz portrays a broken-hearted woman in act two with greater reality than she does a love-smitten girl in act one, and Aranas smoothly but sometimes with too much blatant sleaze embodies a likable whoremaster and swindler.

From start to finish Peter Lockyer as Chris makes the worst possible use of both his limited acting and considerable singing skills by overdoing it with such agony on his face you almost wonder if he badly needs to use the restroom. When other cast members interact with him, he tends to draw them into his hyperbolic world, setting the tone for many scenes and rendering them far too melodramatic.

If after reading this review you're not sure whether you should fork over some major money to see Miss Saigon, then I've done my job. I didn't love it, but I've seen much worse. Faux opera is something I disdain, while you may not. And this is certainly not a bad show as pure entertainment. But make no mistake A it is not art. I'm glad I finally experienced this sprawling extravaganza, but like the Vietnam War, I have no interest in revisiting it.

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