Miss Saigon full of eastern promise

CAROLINE CULOT Hit musical Miss Saigon which previews tonight at the Norwich Theatre Royal is all set to be the venue's biggest box office success ever.

CAROLINE CULOT

Hit musical Miss Saigon which previews tonight at the Norwich Theatre Royal is all set to be the venue's biggest box office success ever.

Tickets sales for the legendary love story showing in Norwich for a month have outsold previous major successes at the Theatre Royal like last year's big musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats.

However, there are still some tickets available for mid-week performances of producer Cameron Mackintosh's show Miss Saigon which is the third most successful in the history of British theatre and the longest running on London's Drury Lane.

With a cast of 50 and almost as many crew, the musical tale set in 1975 in the days leading up to the USA evacuation of Vietnam, is the biggest on any tour in the UK at the moment.

Yesterday the mammoth task of moving in the set and lighting rigs began with the arrival of 10 45ft long trailers at the Theatre Royal and a team of 44 technicians.

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The show finished in Liverpool, its first tour date, on Saturday and so the crew only had a very short time to transport the set and get it up and running in Norwich for tonight.

In fact the performers and the orchestra only have one dress rehearsal today at the theatre before tonight's preview. Previews are essential so the crew can check the sound and lighting in front of a live audience.

Much of the set was actually built in Plymouth, but recreates a Vietnamese village and later transforms into Bangkok.

Making the job even harder is the fact that Norwich is the smallest stage Miss Saigon will be performed at. However, the show has not been scaled down in any way – but is the same production seen on the whole of the tour.

Glyn Cook, the show's technical coordinator, said: "Norwich is a challenge for us because normally we run the show from two sides but we have no space on one side of the theatre here so everything has to go on and off from one side.

"It is tight but we came here about 18 months ago and measured everything up and everything has been done to a plan and gone through.

"So nothing will be different – it is exactly the same show wherever we take it and that is our aim. As for the original production of Miss Saigon – you could never have got that here."

The "new" show is the same as the 1989 original but uses new animated graphics by Gerald Scarfe (the designer of Pink Floyd's The Wall and Disney's Hercules) to recreate the final helicopter scene depicting the fall of South Vietnam. There is also a new raunchy image of the Statue of Liberty.

Set to a powerful score by Boublil and Schonberg, the musical centres around the relationship between an American GI (London Burning's Steve Houghton) and a young Vietnamese girl.

Tickets have sold out for all the weekend evening performances of Miss Saigon in Norwich with only a few tickets available for mid-week matinees.

Jane Walsh, theatre spokeswoman said: "It's bigger than Cats – that ran for three weeks and if Miss Saigon was running for only three weeks it would have sold out completely in mid February."

Miss Saigon is on from tonight, April 5, until April 30. Box office on 01603 630000.

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