REVIEW: Miss Saigon at Haven High Technology College

Haven High, Miss Saigon
Haven High, Miss Saigon

The excitement has been building for weeks as we all listen in on rehearsals and watch the set arrive. Finally ‘show week’ arrives and Haven High’s production of Miss Saigon takes school shows to a whole new level!

Miss Saigon is set in Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War as the US army is withdrawing its troops. Early in the show, Gigi (a hardened Vietnamese Bar-Girl), dreams of a better life through the song ‘The Movie In My Mind’. Becky Huggins delivers this with great power and draws the audience into the story.

The lead role of Kim, a 17 year-old Vietnamese orphan who falls in love with an American G.I. is played by Lulu Albelda. Taking on a very demanding role, she combines a beautiful voice with an intensity of acting that is rarely seen off the professional stage. Her interpretation of the role is outstanding and throughout the week brought many audience members to tears.

Jacob Cooper, a newcomer to the academy’s 6th form, plays Chris, a marine serving a second tour of duty in Vietnam. In his first major role, he convinces the audience he is falling in love with Kim with touching sincerity. As the story unfolds, the anguish he conveys dealing with his return from war and the circumstances in which he now finds himself, is heart-wrenching.

His new wife, Ellen, played by Kelly Greenhalgh, attempts to rebuild a war-torn Chris. In a very challenging role, Kelly displays a maturity well beyond her years. As Ellen and Kim sing from different sides of the world, the audience cannot help but be moved by the desperateness of their situation.

John, Chris’s marine buddy, is played by Tom Bedford. A marine turned Bui-Doi charity worker, John seeks to find an acceptable solution for all parties. At only 15 years old, Tom plays this role with considerable authority and his rousing rendition of ‘Bui-Doi’ at the start of the second act is very moving.

Tiago Torres plays Thuy, a Commissar in the North Vietnamese army who has been promised Kim’s hand in marriage. Again, at just 14 years of age, Tiago gives a very affecting performance, suffering the ultimate sacrifice for his efforts.

Inevitably, the plot line is very intense, so it is a welcome relief when The Engineer arrives on stage. Harry Hextall, well-known for his quirky performances, plays the role with brilliantly fusing humour with just the right amount of cynicism.

The lead performances are complimented by a well-drilled ensemble of over 80 students. Learning complicated choreography and difficult harmonies, audiences were treated to rousing renditions of ‘The Heat Is On In Saigon’, ‘The Morning of The Dragon’ and ‘The American Dream’. The most memorable scene, however, has to be ‘Kim’s Nightmare’ where audiences are convinced that a helicopter actually arrives and lands on the stage itself. The intensity of performance from the entire cast as Chris is forced to leave Kim behind is remarkably real and very moving.

The whole production is underpinned by a fabulous twelve-piece orchestra led by Lee Hextall (Area Manager – Lincolnshire Music Service). The quality musicians add an extra touch of class and do a stunning job of providing the emotional score behind the voices.

It is not merely a school production but one which rivals a professional show. This review cannot finish without mentioning the staff who have supported the young people to this standard, particularly Vanessa Adams and Josh Reed. Haven High Academy is very lucky indeed to have such a talented and dedicated team of staff who all share the same love of Music and The Arts. Fantastic!