Review

Miss Saigon School Edition
by Las Vegas Academy

As we are being painfully reminded, war doesnít only affect the combatants. Nor does it always end with the cessation of hostilities. This love story, set near the end and in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, enjoyed major Broadway success in the 1980s. Now, in 2007, the Las Vegas Academy is putting on the world premiere of the school edition of Miss Saigon, a slightly toned-down version of the original, though with only a few noticeable tone downs, and still recommended for ages twelve and older.

Itís an impressive kickoff to the Student Edition. The Las Vegas Academy is a magnet school attracting teenage talents from all over the Vegas area, and they are putting this show on in the new, state-of-the-art Lowden Theatre. The schoolís orchestra does a commendable job with the complex musical score. And Director Robert Connor has brought together a visually stunning production featuring professional-looking sets, excellent costumes, and some sublime and evocative lighting effects by John Morris. Not to mention the spectacular helicopter scene as the GIís evacuate Saigon.

There are some great performances in here as well. The story centers around Kim, a young, vulnerable woman who goes to Saigon to escape a forced marriage and ends up trying to earn a living the only way she can, then suddenly falling in love with a kind American soldier who suddenly falls in love with her too. The motivation for the love isnít well developed in the musical, but the drama that unfolds once you accept that love is a compelling one. Made more compelling by senior Veronica Domingo as Kim, especially as the loving and protective mother Ė a role so central to the story. Kimís song at the end of act one, clutching her young son Tam to her, is remarkably powerful.

She also shares some good duets with her lover Chris (Joey DeBenedetto). Both have gentle but strong voices that make for a marvelous rendition of The Last Night of the World. The knockout voice of Lisa Smith as Chrisís wife Ellen shines in Now That Iíve Seen Her and helps create a lovely duet with Kim in I Still Believe. Kimís employer, known as The Engineer (Matt Takahashi), is humorously self-centered and unscrupulous, leading the big American Dream number that features a big pink Cadillac occupied and surrounded by a bevy of beautiful women.

Julian Crider, as Chrisís friend John, has a fine, clear voice. Jan Sicam, as Gigi, heads an impressive group of prostitutes in Saigon whose dancing draws us into the steamy but sad underworld of the Vietnam War Ė a war with so many types of tragic consequences. John Morrisís lighting effects gives us all a share of those consequences, as the spotlight on the final scene slowly arcs around to sweep over all of us in the audience.

Performs February 1 - 17, 2007.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Kim: Veronica Domingo
Chris: Joey DeBenedetto
Ellen: Chelsea Bernier, Lisa Smith
Gigi: Ashley Greene, Tiana Lewis, Jan Sicam
John: Julian Crider
Engineer: Matt Takahashi
Thuy: Chris Lyons

Male Ensemble:
Travis Albright
Mark Bettencourt
Deven Calhoun
Cody Canyon
Kip Canyon
Philip Cerza
Pablo Coura
Dominique Davis
Dustin Denis
Aaron Fentress
joe Galizia
Alan Hughes
Jayce Johnson
Jeremy Knowles
Drew Lynch
Kelley Malloy
Brandon Mau
Matt Ortile
Matt Phillips
Dakota Rakes
Richard Taylor
Jeff Zicker

Female Ensemble:
Lauren Abderrahman
Lauren Bassford
Heather Brown
Ayla Brown
Jasmine Bryant
Caitlyn Cerza
Shararyah Clark
Ashley Culberg
Ja'Nel Davis
Lynda DeFuria
Lauren Frias
Janelle Hamilton
Heather Hartman
Stevie Keeter
Tia Konsur
Cecilia Medina
Melissa Ortiz
Rachel Richards
Bianca Rivera
Samantha Schecter
Breanna Skagen
Sarah Stewart
Sydney Syverson
Francesca Tessarolo
Kerry Warren
Sydney Wren
Deanna Ybarra

Director: Robert Connor
Technical Director/Lighting Design: John Morris
Sound Design: Eric McFall
Choreography: Tammy Pessagno
Conductor: Brian Downey and Pat Bowen


   

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