When I lived in New York back in the ’70s my friends said to forget seeing Miss Saigon, thinking it was an inferior imitation of the opera Madame Butterfly. Well, in the last month I have seen Miss Saigon twice and absolutely fallen in love with the story and score. In fact I think it is an important work about American responsibility towards the thousands of children, not to mention girlfriends, left in Viet Nam after that unfortunate war. Besides, the score by Claude-Michel Schonberg and the lyrics by Richard Maltby and Alain Boublil are magnificent. I like it better than Les Miserables, their other collaboration.
I enjoyed the production of Miss Saigon at La Mirada but the current production at Candlelight Pavilion blew me away. The Candlelight Pavilion is a dinner theatre and serves some excellent food. But who knew that a mere dinner theatre (albeit an elegant one) could also serve up such a winning production? Only one of the performers is union, Yard Cabling, and he is fantastic, Broadway-caliber. Surprisingly the rest of the cast is also extraordinary. Eduardo Enriches is a wonderful Chris. He has a strong soaring tenor and a handsome athletic demeanor. Kim is played by Nicole Santiago-Barredo. She is lovely, has a great instrument, and gives a totally winning performance. Colette Peters makes a good impression as Ellen (Chris’ wife). James Oronoz as John and Joseph Andreas both have strong voices and give commendable performances. Stella Kim is strong as Gigi.
The real stars of the evening however are director Neil Dale and choreographer Janet Renslow. They both give the production the professionalism and heart that the piece demands. I look forward to more shows at this beautiful venue. Miss Saigon will play until Sept. 30 at the Candlelight Pavilion.