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Miss Saigon Musings

August 22, 2013

Guest posting, by Andrew Peterson, owner of ShowsInLondon.co.uk.

Miss Saigon the musical – the return of a much-loved popular show or misplaced optimism and a case of The Emperor’s new clothes?

Much of the West End industry insiders are getting very excited about the return of Miss Saigon. But could this be mis-placed optimism on the part of theatreland? More a case of The Return of Martin Guerre, the less popular Schönberg and Boublil musical rather than the triumphant return of a top-selling show?

All new shows to the West End are heralded as the next big thing by single-minded producers, is it a genuine belief in the show or is it simply blind optimism? I suppose if you are backing it with your own money then you have every right to have belief in the show. The trouble is so many sycophants jump on the seemingly unstoppable band wagon and much like the Emperor’s new clothes  declare the show as wonderful before even a note has been struck. Much of this is perpetrated by marketing agents and indeed ticket agents self-serving to gain favour of the producer and market share, should said show prove to be a popular attraction.

But looking at cold hard facts, Miss Saigon was a huge hit both in London and on Broadway. The musical ran for over ten years at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane closing in 1999 after 4,264 performances, making it the longest running musical at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, eclipsing the record previously set by My Fair Lady. Similarly it ran for nearly ten years on Broadway closing in 2000 after over 4,000 performances.

Miss Saigon will open at the Prince Edward Theatre in London in May 2014, 25 years after the original show. Best remembered for the spectacular helicopter scene, Miss Saigon was Schönberg and Boublil’s second major success, following Les Misérables in 1985, which is still running at the Queen’s theatre and has becomes the world’s longest running musical.

Miss Saigon still remains the eleventh longest-running Broadway musical in musical theatre history, so you would think the time is ripe to dust it down and bring it back to the adoring thousands ready to flock to buy tickets for the show in London.

But is it really as simple as that? After all Schönberg and Boublil’s third musical, The Return of Martin Guerre, similarly had all the ingredients but didn’t fare as well as its predecessors. And what could go wrong with ‘Phantom 2’? Seemingly a sure-fire box office hit following on from where The Phantom of the Opera left off. However, Love Never Dies attracted scathing reviews and sadly some fans of the original show took to the social media network to slate the new musical, proving really that there is no such thing as a certain box office hit.

Miss Saigon the musical is a Vietnam War love story based loosely on Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. Cameron Mackintosh declared that he had been working for a decade on a “re-imagined” new production, or is it just the imagery of bulging ticket sales and bank balances that his filling his mind? Cameron has stated that the latest production of Miss Saigon “has taken a more gritty and realistic approach to the design than the operatic original but still delivers the power and epic sweep of Boublil and Schonberg’s great score.”

Tickets for Miss Saigon go on sale in September.

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