The heat is on in “Saigon”

In case you missed the extreme heat that poured from the dorms last week, you can catch another heat wave at the Warner Theatre’s production of “Miss Saigon.” Broadway’s classic love story, set in the final stages of the Vietnam War, brings 1970s Saigon roaring to the D.C. stage. The story is one of star-crossed lovers – an American G.I. (Chris) and a Vietnamese orphan turned prostitute (Kim) – and how their brief time together changes both their lives forever. When Chris must leave Saigon in the American evacuations, a twist of fate makes him leave Kim behind, carrying his child. Years later, he returns to find Kim with tragic results.

While all characters gave passionate performances, there were some areas where they were lacking. The first act was slow and plagued with tonality problems. The opening number should have shocked the show to life, but instead left the audience wishing for another big production number to redeem the pitch issues and bland choreography. The half-dressed dancers’ awkward gestures, flashing lights and catcalls were more akin to a Friday night in front of Thurston than a Broadway musical.

Jennifer Paz, however, was a ray of light as Kim. Her delicate presence brought just the right amount of innocence and pain to the role. Alan Gillespie’s portrayal of Chris was filled with the heart needed for the part, but his voice seemed too strained to successfully perform the character’s songs.

In contrast to the first, the second act was a breath of fresh air. Johann Michael Camat was phenomenal in his role as the sleazy engineer. In the first act he was a wallflower surrounded by the bar girls, but in the second he became a star, sliding across the floor in perfectly simplistic choreography. In his final number, “The American Dream,” he sings of credit cards, fake breasts and endless money. However, all good things must come to an end, as does this show, but with a bang.

“Miss Saigon” is playing at the Warner Theatre through Sunday, Nov. 14.

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