Miss Saigon Sheffield July 2023

Miss Saigon 10th July 2023 – Crucible Theatre Sheffield

Well this is the show that started it all for me. I was sat in my living room with my parents back probably late 1989. The Wogan chat show came on and they said they had given the whole show over to a new musical opening in the West End.

Now obviously I knew of the West End, even visiting the place about three years earlier when I ‘caught a lift’ (i.e. jumping onto a school organised trip my brother was on) to see Time The Musical. Which also proves how bad my memory is as I would have bet money it was in Victoria Palace or the theatre next door. However it was in the Dominion.

Anyway I digress. I mean I enjoyed Time but it didn’t light the fire that made me keep returning for what is now nearly 35 years!

So the Wogan show started, a gorgeous young lady appeared on the screen and lets be honest here I fancied her. So after watching to see how much more she was on it. Turned out she, although new to the UK was one of the leads, so was on the whole show. The songs clicked for me. I was intrigued by the story and I thought I know I’ll go to London to see this show.

So not being confident enough to drive there myself, come on this was WAY pre-Satnav, and my map reading skills are non-existent. So I looked around and found a firm in Cardiff called City Centre Ticketline, who had an office right next door to where I ended up working in Central Cardiff many years later.

You paid for the ticket, had coach included with meals and TVs on there showing songs and TV bits about musicals on the way up. Then had a few hours sight seeing, the show ticket and then the return journey home.

So I booked many times to go up that way, later driving myself, especially when my brother joined the Met Police and I got to kip on the floor in the different places he lived up there.

All the time seeing Miss Saigon. During it’s original run at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, in later years going to Broadway to see it. Being front row first night, first ever tour in Manchester. Then subsequent tours, and the re-invention at the Prince Edward theatre in 2014. Being at both the 10th & 25th anniversary performances. Oh and at both performances on the last day at Drury Lane and the Prince Edward.

So all of this is to explain how I, a guy who lives in South wales ended up driving a 400 mile round trip to see a new production of this show at the Crucible theatre in Sheffield.

So we are up to date.

I drive the Sheffield, thanks google maps, and eventually found my hotel. I mean there were only three wrong turns and two of those were trying to get off the last roundabout in Sheffield City centre. I mean come on. There were about 5 exits NONE of which gave any clue they led to where the Sat Nav said I needed to go.

I stayed at the OYO Flagship City Centre hotel. Must admit hadn’t heard of this chain before planning this trip. However it turned out to be 5 monute walk from the centre of the city. All be it through an area even I, at my size, felt a little uneasy walking through, as there always seemed to be groups of homeless people in goups there and a strong smell of drugs.

The hotel itself though was clean and reasonably priced. Also including breakfast so a good deal.


So to a show, no not THE show, as I travelled up on the Sunday, my ticket being for the Monday. Just in case I hit any problems to ensure I didn’t miss the show. So at a loose end I found there was a show on called Cirque – The Greatest Show at Sheffield city hall. So I grabbed a last minute ticket and headed in.

Now this was always going to be a risk for me as I really don’t like circuses. I do however love musicals. As this show was sold as a combination of both. ‘Spectacular’ Circus acts and live singers singing songs from various musicals. I thought I’d give it a go. Especially as being a Sunday night it was the ‘only show in town’ so to speak.

Well it was enjoyable. The circus performers were certainly skilled. There was a mime (who acted as a silent narrator for the show), fire eater, someone in a huge hoop, a couple on roller-skates, someone doing an act on a giant anchor, and two ladies in a spinning cube! All the absolute definition of looks better than it sounds.

Then to the singers. The ‘lead’ was also the director of the company that puts on this (and a number of other) touring shows. Then there were another two singers one male one female. They all had good voices and performed the songs well. With numbers from The Greatest Showman (obvs 😉 ), Rocketman, Hairspray and many others. Including, bonus for me, a song from Miss Saigon.

All in all a fun evening that was worth to price of the ticket. Even if I won’t be queuing up to see it again soon.

So to Monday, and after wandering around for a few hours in the morning the weather threatened rain so I looked around and decided to visit a cinema. Finding the Curzon, now I did find an Odeon as well. However their online booking being absolutely horrendous, not even displaying the seats to show what was available. I decided on the Curzon instead. It was the right decision. This small venue (apparently converted bank) was a revelation. I mean I haven’t been to many (read ANY) cinema’s decorated like this.


Also at £8.50 for a ticket it was great value. So I spent a few hours in the company of one Indiana Jones, and the Dial of Destiny. A fun romp and fitting farewell to an iconic character from movie history.

So to the evening of the performance.

I headed to the venue from my hotel only to turn the corner into the square where the Crucible resides and walked straight into Claude-Michel Schönberg. The Composer of Miss Saigon, and of Course Les Miserables, Martin Guerre and The Pirate Queen amongst other works.

I managed to slow my speech down to a speed that can be understood by humans. As opposed to, as though who know me can attest, a usual tempo that only canines brought up in my specific part of the South Wales valleys don’t struggle with. I managed to say how much I loved his show, that it was the reason I started going to see Musicals and I got to shake the great man’s hand. Wow! 🙂


I wandered into the theatre, and a little later into the auditorium. Now I knew this venue was (almost) ‘in the round’ as a lay out, and eventually after taking a wrong turn as I entered through the Orange door. I found my seat.

So to Miss Saigon:

Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. and Alain Boublil
Adapted from Original French Text by Alain Boublil, Additional lyrics by Michael Mahler
Orchestrations by William David Brohn, Originally Produced on the Stage by Cameron Mackintosh

This new production Directed by Robert Hastie & Anthony Lau, Designer Ben Stones, Choreographer Jade Hackett, Sound Designer Mike Walker, Video and Animation Designer Andrzej Goulding, Musical Director Chris Poon.

Cast: Joanna Ampil ‘The Engineer’, Desmonda Cathabel ‘Mimi and Alternate Kim’, Aynrand Ferrer ‘Gigi’, Shanay Holmes ‘Ellen’, Jessica Lee ‘Kim and Alternate Mimi’, Christian Maynard ‘Chris’, Shane O’Riordan ‘John’ and supporting cast.

Okay, now this is described as a new imagining of the classic musical. The staging is obviously different, partly due to the layout of the venue. Some of the lyrics have been changed. This is nothing new. When I went to see the show in 2014 I was surprised as to how many were changed then.

This time the focus is more on the character arcs as opposed to what some see as the original’s “white saviour”outlook. Now speaking personally I can say I never viewed it that way. However I am prepared to accept that being white, straight and male I am viewing from a different perspective than some of the characters depicted who people from those communities feel were problematic.

The show uses enormous video screens, and lighting effects to great effect. The cast, for large portions of the performance sit around the stage, in front of the front row.

So from here on it’s **SPOILERS BELOW**

All the songs I remember from multiple viewings over the last 34 years, are included. There have been changes for example ‘Now that I’ve seen her’ (Ellen’s number) replaced by ‘Maybe’ this being written for the 2014 revival. Beyond that I didn’t notice many (if any) structural changes to the plot / songs.

The major changes are in the presentation of the characters. The obvious one being casting a woman as ‘The Engineer’. Joanna Ampil has history with the show being the actress playing Kim leading the cast to when the original Drury Lane run ended. Also featuring in the iconic (at least to fans) You’ll Miss Saigon posters on the underground.

In this new role she brings a hard edge to, what is basically a madame, without losing the humanity of someone who is basically doing everything she can to survive.

Her delivery of the big numbers for the character at least equals the great male Engineers of the past. During ‘the American Dream’ transforming, however fleetingly, into that icon of the American dream Marilyn Monroe.

For me it was a balance. On the positive I felt the show had lost none of it’s emotional punch. I can see people leaving the show feeling exactly as Claude-Michel said in the documentary of the making of the original production “needing days to recover..”.

For me ‘I Still Believe’ always my favourite songs is better staged than the original. With the scene taking place in a Supermarket. Check it out, it works. Showing the PTSD that many of those returning from that (and subsequent) conflict suffered.

For me what didn’t work as well was the way Thuy and latterly Kim’s death was staged. For me it just didn’t have the impact and took me out of the moment. I mean both of those moments were guaranteed tear jerkers for me. In this production only the last did, and not as much as the original staging.

‘Bui Doi’ being more in a support group setting rather than a preaching “Look what we can do as American’s” rally type event. Focussing on the impact that leaving the little ones behind had on all those involved.

All in all it was great to visit again with an old friend. Who despite the intervening years had lost none of her allure.

I really hope this version gets a longer run either in the West End or on tour. As with a few changes I can imaging it being a lot easier to tour that previous productions.

Oh the Helicopter, come on you didn’t think I wouldn’t talk about that now did you. 😉

I like the way they did it. Utilising a part of the stage not featured before or after so still coming as ‘a moment’ in the production and it was certainly better than the projection of earlier tours.

So not that I’m on a counting but it’s (at time of writing) 80 days 18 hours 19 minutes and 55 seconds till my trip to London for my annual holiday there.

If you get chance check out Miss Saigon it’s still for me one of THE great musicals.

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