In the great theatrical tradition that "the show must go on" no only did Curtain Call Players manage to install the sets, lights and sound equipment for MISS SAIGON in the church, they also had to adjust the staging to fit on what is essentially a church altar. Thanks to their determined efforts and the commitment of a strong cast, the popular musical drama by Claude Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil is given a moving performance.
Based on the Puccini opera Madama Butterfly, MISS SAIGON resets the story against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. The geisha Cio-Cio San becomes a bargirl named Kim, and Lieutenant Pinkerton is now an American GI named Chris.
For Curtain Call's production the role of Kim is played by a remarkable singer, Chaliz La Madrid. Not only does she sing the complex score with assurance, she also adds a number of subtle touches to her performance to underscore the dramatic journey her character must follow. There is barely a dry eye in the house by the end of the show.
As Chris, Russell Underdown pours out a powerful voice matched with a richly detailed portrayal of this conflicted and passionate soldier. Richard Kwong delivers a charismatic performance as the sleazy Engineer who manipulates Kim for his own advantage. He makes his second act production number "The American Dream" every bit the showstopper it is intended to be.
With three very strong performers handling the leading roles, it effectively raises the bar for the supporting players and happily they all rise to the occasion giving solid performances. Notable standouts include Glen Burgess as Chris's friend John; Emily Klatt as Chris's American wife Ellen, and Jason Nunez as Kim's rejected suitor, Thuy.
Music director Michel Grieco has carefully coached the cast to give them the confidence needed to sing this enormously complex score. Keith O'Connell has staged the piece to focus on the central relationships making us care very deeply for the people in this story.
The technical demands of moving a huge and complicated production to an unfamiliar performance space has created some real challenges for Curtain Call Players. The first performance was marred by a few sound problems but the cast stayed focused on telling the story, and the opening night audience rewarded them with a well-deserved standing ovation.
MISS SAIGON continues at Rhodes Avenue Theatre. 1470 Gerrard St. E. through Saturday April 7. For tickets visit www.curtaincallplayers.com or call the Box Office, 416-703-6181.
Photo of Chaliz La Madrid who plays KIm in this production of MISS SAIGON is by Kelly Newell.