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Love and war in Vietnam: 'Miss Saigon' comes to Wharton Center


Anthony Festa (left) and Emily Bautista in "Miss Saigon."

If you leave “Miss Saigon” without singing any of the songs, you’re not alone.

The latest touring production of the Broadway revival, now running at the Wharton Center, has many things to brag about — from a stellar cast and production values to jaw-dropping visual effects.

Like Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s other tragic musical “Les Misérables,” you will hear the people sing but you might not be singing along with them.

Based on Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly,” “Miss Saigon” tells a tragic tale of doomed romance set against the end of the Vietnam War. Kim (Emily Bautista) works at a brothel run by The Engineer (Red Concepción) and falls in love with an American G.I. named Chris (Anthony Festa). But Chris and Kim are separated before the fall of Saigon and Kim has to reunite her new son with his American father.

Bautista is a force as Kim, growing quickly from a timid girl to a fearsome woman. She and Festa share convincing chemistry that lays roots for their heartbreaking separation in Act II.

Red Concepción is incredible as the charismatic creep The Engineer. It’s not easy making such an unlikeable character engaging to the audience, but Concepción has the gift of charm, a strong voice and the show-stopping Act II number “The American Dream.”

The rest of the cast, including J. Daughtry as Chris’s friend John, Stacie Bono as Chris’s new wife, Ellen, and Ryder Khatiwala as Kim’s son, Tam, are essential in their limited roles.

But the strongest elements of the show are the production values. The set morphs from a filthy hovel to a glitzy brothel aided by Bruno Poet’s lighting design and Mick Potter’s sound design. The American embassy evacuation scene with a full-scale helicopter in Act II is the show’s signature special effect for a reason.

For those looking for a Cameron Mackintosh produced melodrama in a historic setting, “Miss Saigon” should impress. It’s unfortunate that the show doesn’t have more blockbuster Broadway songs to go with the blockbuster visual effects.

"Miss Saigon"

Through March 17

Tickets start at $43

Wharton Center for Performing Arts

750 E. Shaw Ln., East Lansing


(517) 432-2000


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