|Miss Saigon (1995 Studio Cast)
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- First Les Miserables, and now The Miserables
Oh, what a mixed package this recording is !
First, it's confusing that this package is called "The Complete Recording". Because that's what the OLC was, at the time when that one was put together. The differences between the OLC and this newer recording are additions or revisions that have all been made since the show first opened in London.
These changes may have been necessary to some degree, since no version of the show has yet been wholly successful as a piece of theatre. But to be honest most of them have a "band-aid" air to them -- plugs stopping up holes in the show, rather than successfully reshaping a poor structure. Some of them -- like the more detailed interactions and backstory shared by Kim and Thuy, and the expanded depiction of the sweep of the Viet Cong in "The Morning of the Dragon" -- make it a more textured story, but aren't really necessary to make the show work; others -- like the overbloated "The American Dream" -- are simply indulgences, taking advantage of and leaning too heavily on the few parts that were actually working well.
As a consequence, this version of the show has a slightly jury-rigged, too-many-cooks patchwork feel to it that just doesn't satisfy. Like a committee-planned concept album, rather than an organic theatrical experience.
More disappointing, it is puzzlingly short on energy. There's a fair bit of shouting and over-emphasizing happening, but much of it goes past without making much impact. This leaves the overall tone being Miserable, rather than being tragic or touching or galvanizing, as the OLC performance manages to be.
I think that's mostly the producers' fault, but sadly the cast doesn't help.
Broadly speaking, the Vietnamese characters in this production are the most successful. Perhaps the stand-out for me is Charles Azulay as Thuy. His is a wonderful, detailed performance, that sidesteps stereotyping and fully captures the passionate man whose world has spun out of kilter, and who has only an uncompromising ideology to cling to for stability. He's not a sympathetic character, but in Azulay's hands (voice ?) he's very moving. And it's in her scenes with Thuy that Joanna Ampil's Kim shines most brightly.
Joanna Ampil is lustrous in her best moments, but perhaps a less-assured actress, as she can't sustain the character as solidly as the OLC's Lea Salonga. Her acting seems all in reaction, and at the end of the story, after all her being manipulated and exploited by almost everyone who comes into her life, we don't really feel we've heard who Kim is inside, as a person. Joanna Ampil's voice is lovely, although marred by the fact that she frequently pushes too hard (apparently as compensation for either a lack of natural energy or her own sense of insecurity as a performer), and there are parts where the role is outside her comfortable singing range, so she resorts to octave flipping, in the woeful tradition of Madonna's performance as Evita. Sorry, for me that just doesn't ever work.
Sonia Swaby is a wonderful and wholly successful Gigi, capturing well the frightened and still-hopeful girl inside the bitter, life-hardened woman driven to whoredom as a way of surviving and, just perhaps, snagging a place in the future. Kevin Gray has a great stab at the Engineer; what he lacks in acting subtlety, especially compared to Jonathan Pryce in the OLC recording, he makes up for to a large degree in energy and more authentic tone and mannerisms. But strangely, despite having the greatest "screen-time" of just about any character, he never becomes more than a fairly one-dimensional stereotype. And a very unpleasant and unsympathetic one, at that.
And as for the American characters ? Well, Ruthie Henshall as Ellen is adequate, though not particularly successful. (I just don't understand the fuss over her as a musical actress, as for me there is nothing remarkable about her performances besides her irritating first name.) Peter Cousens just doesn't work at all as Chris; he's got no spunk, no muscularity in his voice; he's acquiescent and -- well, miserable -- in just about every scene, even when he's trying to sound defiant; and he's got almost constant pitch problems. And as for Hinton Battle ... how on earth did this guy get a Tony for this role ?!! I'm not saying he's not talented -- he was dynamite in the Buffy episode "Once More With Feeling" -- but as evidenced by *this* peformance, the guy can neither sing nor act. I find his performance embarrassing.
So. In many ways an interesting recording, though hampered by some dodgy performances from the main singers and some embarrassing over-acting from some of the extras, an engineering process that never quite surmounts the problems inherent in having performers do their individual parts of the same scene in separate sessions held in separate parts of the world (a problem that also bugged the "complete symphonic" version of "Les Miserables", though to a much lesser degree), and some questionable tempo choices in the conducting.
If you really love the show of "Miss Saigon", this is worth having, mostly for the interesting take on the characters (and especially the Vietnamese ones) and out of curiosity to hear the surgery and grafting done on the show since its premiere. But although it has more content, it's really not more complete as a story or a piece of theatre than the OLC version....more info
- Insider Information
In case anyone's curious, here are a few tidbits: the majority of the leads were not sung by Americans because the union was charging Mackintosh a fortune to hire them. He also certainly didn't want to pay Jon or Lea to reprise their roles. He did, however, spring for Hinton Battle (who, by the way, won the Tony Award for his John and is by far the best who ever played the role). He also sprang for the Broadway cast of that period (Sept 1994) to sing the ensemble vocals, partly, perhaps, to make up for not having provided an original Broadway cast album. (Incidentally two of the minor role credits are erroneously switched - can anyone spot which ones?). An insider's opinion of who performed the various leads best, in and out of the studio? THE ENGINEER: Raul Aranas; KIM: Imelda de los Reyes, or Joan Amedilla; CHRIS: Eric Kunze or Jarrod Emick (orig Chicago); JOHN: Hinton Battle (orig Bway - Tony Award); ELLEN: Tami Tappan; THUY: Barry Bernal (orig Bway); GIGI: Marina Chapa (orig Bway). Not only are/were these individuals outstanding vocalists, they are/were outstanding actors as well, bringing a dimension and nuance to their performances that outshone others in those roles. I'd pay a pretty penny for a complete symphonic recording of Saigon that utilized such a cast (with, in addition, the original Broadway ensemble intact)!...more info
- The Best of All of the Recordings!!!
This is the best recording of Miss Saigon I have heard. I bought it for , like most people do , for the missed parts . The missed songs sung by Thuy , the main Asian character , are amazing. Some of the songs are different ( like The Sacred Bird is omitted on this one but the song in its place is just as great ) but considering it has all the songs , I STRONGLY recommend this cd compilation to any TRUE Miss Saigon fans!!...more info
- Good, but not the best
I purchased this CD as well as the Original Cast recording to familiarise myself with the music as I will be auditioning for Miss Saigon later this year.
I must say although the music is fine, the original cast recording is much better. The voices are generally weaker in this version compared to the original cast recording especially the Engineer's role. Not as much character comes through the voices, and there are slight changes in tempo compared to the original cast recording which can irritate. For example, the first scene with the Engineer and the bar girls backstage seems rushed, unclear and indistinct compared to the original. Also there seems to be a couple of numbers missing from the start of Act II?
This CD is ok if you want to familiarise yourself with the music of this great musical. You can tell that the music is written by the same composer as Les Mis - you get the same sorts of chords, key changes, rececitive and arias as Les Mis - but if you want to hear a "best performance" version, get the original cast instead....more info
- the american dream
the best musical to see on stage. with this rendition, you will have all the songs that you'll ever want to hear. lea songa's magical voice with enchant you and leave you breathless. joining her is the excellent jonathan priece as the engineer. seedy and seemy just as an engineer should. you will find yourself singing to all the songs in no time. if you liked the show, you'll love the album. i own it and its still in my cd player in my car!...more info
- I like it alot!
I have to say this is my personal favourite recording of the show (though that's only my opinion). Joanna Ampil is my favourite Kim. Although Lea Salonga was great, I think Joanna gets into the role more and really makes you feel what she's feeling. However, I admit I'm slightly biased as I heard Les in Les Mis first and that kind of put me off her. I just love Kevin Gray as the Engineer! He's so funny and he can sing really well. His version of 'What a waste' is hilarious and I love all his ad-libbing ('Hey, that was a joke pal!) I get this impression most people don't like Peter Cousens and I have to agree there. I don't like Chris in general but I have to say Simon Bowman on the OLR did a better job abd sounded more convincing. Overall I do like Hinton Battle as John but he has a tendency to be quite scary (Are you out of your MIND! ). Ruthie Henshall is a cool Ellen but her acccent does need work. To giver her credit, at least she sings the part with convistion and I just love her version of 'I still believe' although she does go quite scary when she sings 'Chris what's hauntin YOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUU! '. What is it with people in Miss Saigon being scary? Anyway, I was stunned by Charles Azualay's performance as Thuy (the one performance which is meant to be scary!). He has such a lovely voice and knows when to sing softly and when to sing harshly. The bit where he comes back as a ghost is just so cool! Oh yeah, thanks to that other fan who mentioned Sonia Swaby's performance as Gigi. She sings the song wonderfully and with enought energy to power the national grid. In short, I love this recording, despite the occasion scariness or Australians it's really good and definalely woth buying...more info
I bought this CD because I wanted to hear the tracks that were omitted from the OLC version. All in all, I love this version. But if one must compare it to the OLC, here's how it shaped up in my opinion:
The score backing the songs and the arrangements are far superior on this recording. Several songs become far longer and more elaborate on this recording than on the OLC (most prominent in my mind are the incredible versions of "Morning of the Dragon" and "The American Dream").
As for the cast, I still prefer Lea Salonga as Kim, although Joanna Ampil does a fine job. I just prefer the Salonga's voice quality. Unlike many others on this site, I like Peter Cousens as Chris. While he doesn't possess Simon Bowman's incredible voice, he is a much better actor than Bowman (I found Bowman in OLC's version of The Confrontation unintentionally hilarious) and I think he does a great job. Kevin Gray is a great Engineer. I love Jonathan Pryce immeasurably but let's face it, he was just a bit too British to pull off a realistic Engineer. Gray has a field day with this part and is delightfully sleazy throughout (particularly in What a Waste and American Dream). Ruthie Henshall is a good Ellen (and in my opinion, her Roxie Hart in the London revival of Chicago was the best ever. Absolutely stunning!) but nothing to write home about. I was kind of disappointed with Hinton Battle as John (I found myself a.)unable to understand him at times, b.)missing the OLC John, and c.)wondering how Battle won a Tony for this). Finally, Charles Azulay blew me away as Thuy on this recording. He is phenomenal, especially on The Guilt Inside Your Head. This recording's Gigi also has a slight edge on the OLC's.
All in all, this is a wonderful recording and well-worth owning!!...more info
- OLC is the best
I still find the original london cast is the best.. If youre a Miss Saigon fan.. you should buy it.. but if you wanna get the perfect CD get the original.. Lea's always be incomparable.. she has it all.. the voice, her acting ability and her beauty.. this play was just perfectly made for her.. although we will always remember that theres always more talents to see and hear too.. Joanna Ampil's one of them and Monique Wilson but as what Cameron Mackintosh say's "Lea Salonga has a stunning voice of an angel and a stamina of Pavarotti".. i bow to them.. its the creator who said it.. not just some reviewers who knew nothing... and Simon Bowman.. he sang good but too much vibratto which his voice sometimes sounds like a girl.. Isay Alvares did good.. but her voice in the opening "Tonite you'll be Miss Jumped Upon" sounds to me like a guy.. but her performance in "the movie in my mind" was excellent.. Keith Burns was excellent.. real evil.. Jonathan Price was okay... and good but he doesnt sound to me like a vietnamese pimp.. the first time i was confused if he is viet of american pimp.. Peter Polycarpou was good but not at his best.. Claire Moore was excellent but she doesnt sound to me as Chris's wife.. She sounds like Chris's sister or mother.. but.. the original is still the best.. get this CD so you can compare.....more info
- Complete? Yes, Flawless? No
What is it with complete recordings of Boublil & Schonberg works always having mediocre casts? First, with the Les Miserables Complete Symphonic Recording (with the exceptions of Philip Quast, Michael Ball, and Anthony Warlow) and now, with the Miss Saigon Studio Cast Recording. I, myself, didn't buy this recording for cast, though; I just bought it to hear the revisions in the show from the London cast recording, and to hear the complete score. However, it would have been nice to have a better cast to go along with it. Not to say that there aren't exceptions to this cast, because there definitely are; it's just that the idiosyncrasies of a few key characters can get fairly annoying.
Kevin Gray's Engineer is slimy, smarmy, and everything the character is, and he has many great moments on this CD (to be specific, "What A Waste") but when you're up against Jonathan Pryce's near-perfect portrayal, it's very hard to come out the victor. Still, Gray does make one hell of an impression, and anyone would be lucky to see him play the role onstage.
Joanna Ampil as Kim. Pleasant voice, hits the notes just fine, but she over-enunciates like an English professor, and it sometimes sounds at times that she's trying very hard to imitate Lea Salonga. It's not so hard to deal with in the first few songs, but once she gets to "You Will Not Touch Him," you will hear the enunciation issues, as well as a bit of overacting.
Peter Cousens' interpretation of Chris just made me learn to appreciate Simon Bowman. No doubt, he has an amazing voice, with fantastic range (he stays in chest voice instead of going into falsetto on the line "all I have now is you" when he's fighting with Ellen) but he has a tendency to sing every little thing - case in point, instead of simply saying "Good Jesus, John, who is she?" he tries to belt it, putting as much vibrato as he can on "Jesus" and "she."
I know not many people enjoy Hinton Battle's John, but I actually love it. His "Bui-Doi" gives me chills every time I hear it, and I know many have criticized his version of the song for being too gospel, but I like that he found a way to make the song his own, adding his own little touches here and there to distinctly mark it as his interpretation. Also, his rendition of "Please" almost made Joanna Ampil bearable for a few minutes. Almost.
Ruthie Henshall! I might be biased because I've loved her in everything from the Les Miserables TAC to Hey, Mr. Producer DVD to Putting It Together, but to me, she made a star part out of Ellen. Claire Moore was amazing as well on the London recording, but Ruthie is just fantastic in this role. Her "Now That I've Seen Her" is full of emotion, teetering between sorrow and defiance, as it should be, but she really shines in "I Still Believe." She actually forms Ellen into a real person, and not the villain she's usually seen as for keeping Kim and Chris apart.
In the smaller roles, Sonia Swaby is a scene-stealer as Gigi, just the right balance of sarcasm and anger in the Prologue, seductive and sultry in The Heat Is On In Saigon, and regretful yet hopeful in The Movie In My Mind. Charles Azulay's interpretation of Thuy does not stray much from Keith Burns' Thuy, so it's hard to judge. He does a good job, nothing more, nothing less.
Overall, I think if there should ever be a Dream Cast of Miss Saigon, such as the Les Miserables Tac Dream Cast, it would go something like this, for me at least: Lea Salonga as Kim, Jonathan Pryce as The Engineer, David Campbell as Chris (he's not on a recording, but he performed the role in the Hey, Mr. Producer DVD, and had great chemistry with Lea Salonga as well as a voice far surpassing Cousens' and Bowman's), Hinton Battle as John, Ruthie Henshall as Ellen, Keith Burns as Thuy, and Sonia Swaby as Gigi.
If you want an introduction to Miss Saigon, buy the Original London Cast. It doesn't leave anything that you really need to hear to understand the story out. However, if you're a die-hard for Miss Saigon, buy this just for the sake of having the complete score to listen to....more info
- Superb Saigon
Wonderful to be able to catch the entire essence of Saigon. The highlights are good but, to be able to catch EVERY aspect of the show.....is amazing. Completely suggest for any diehard fan!...more info
- Im so sorry!!!
Im so sorry.. i even want to rate this as a one star.. well.. all of the cast are not as better as the orginal londons cast.. even the one who sang the "the movie in my mind" here sounds funny.. and Joanna Ampil and whoever plays Chris and John's sounds funny especially with their accents. Gosh! its like they recite a poem or a declamation or what? Its not melodic, I dont wanna be respectable to these people but to be honest, its not worth buying. I dont care if the OLC does have the missing part but i still love the way they sang. You better get the Original London's Cast if you dont wanna waste your money....more info
This 1995 studio recording is fabulous. While I don't necessarily prefer it entirely over the original cast recording, there are elements to this recording that are over and above the original.
Joanna Ampil, while delightful as Kim, lacks Lea Salonga's essence. There are moments I find her, how shall I say it - too much? - even when the score calls for drama. Perhaps it is the over enunciation of certain words, or perhaps it is my yearning for Salonga's angelic, crystal clear rendition. I might have preferred Toronto's Ma-Anne Dionisio on this recording as well. Kevin Gray, as The Engineer, is nothing short of thrilling. He was fabulous on stage and just as magical on this CD - lending a greasy, snake-like feel to the role. Hinton Battle and Peter Cousens disappoint slightly (what is it with Peter Cousens' heartless, cold reading-esque "You shouldn't be here"?); Sonia Swaby a perfect Gigi; but Ruthie Henshall - beyond words! What I would have given to see her and Lea Salonga in New York. And perhaps the most wonderful performance on this CD is that of Charles Azulay's - his Thuy is deeper and much more complex than the original Thuy.
The extra music and lyrics suddenly provide the bridge between gaps found in the OLC. For example, in the original recording, on disc one, it goes straight from Kim and Ellen's beautiful ballad, "I Still Believe," straight into the Engineer's shrieking, "Are you waiting for them to kill me? Did you not get what he said? There's a big screw loose inside you - I will rip it out of your head!" Even having seen the show, I'd forgotten what the moments in between were - what was the Engineering going on about? On this complete recording is a vital part of the show - a powerful explanation of Kim and Thuy's past, and an essential look into the very things Thuy himself hopes for, as well as the man he has has become. Also, whereas the OLC finishes disc one at This Is The Hour, the studio recording goes straight into I'd Give My Life For You, providing us with the Entr'acte on the second disc.
The finale is an improvement as well. While seemingly shorter, it is undoubtedly more forceful and significant. The heart is the same; but there's less of Kim "praying" to her parents and more of her concentrating on her very last moments with Tam, the very one who has "sustained her for miles."
The music of Miss Saigon is captivating, capturing the very essence of Kim and Chris' doomed love, as well as the shattered fantasies of the other characters. It is all at once heartbreaking, hopeful, and soaring. A lovely addition to any music theater lover's collection. ...more info
- 1989 London Cast is much better that this CD
Lea Solonga will always be Miss Saigon. Not putting her on this CD is a crime....more info
- For True Fans
If you a person who has seen the Miss Saigon, enjoyed it, and wants to purchase a recoreded version of the show for memeories, this may not be the CD for you. However, if you are a ture fan of Miss Saigon, Joanna Ampil, or Ruthie Henshall, this CD may be of some interest to you. Strenghts of the CD: Powerful music and sound effects not featured in other versions of Miss Saigon; a complete recording of the entire show; and an updated version of "Now That I've Seen Her" and the "Finale" that differes from the Broadway recording. Weaknesses of the CD: A different cast from the Broadway recording. Keep in mind, though, that while there are many liseners who have fallen in love with the voices of the original cast, there are those out there who welcome and enjoy a change in sound. The cast memebers used in this recording are all very talented and have their own style of phrasing the lyrics, giving some songs a different meaning than other recorded versions. Fans of Joanna Ampil and Ruthie Henshall will not be disappointed by this recording, as the two female perfomers sing at their best in this complete recording of Miss Saigon....more info
After listening to the OLC all my life, I was desperate to see the show, but it had closed in London. But then something amazing happened - Cameron Mackintosh announced a new touring production. Off I went, and it was not disappointing. I immediately invested in the CSR, eager to know the parts omitted from the OLC, and again, it was certainly not disappointing.
First of all, like the Les Miserables CSR, there is much more 'voice acting', (in lack of a better term), such as shouts in 'The Heat is On' and more screams in 'The Fall of Saigon'. When I listened to it, it felt like I was there, in the action. I could see the show play out in front of me.
The cast is also fantastic, and I enjoy Joanna Ampil's performance as Kim just as much as Lea Salonga's, as well as strongly favouring Peter Cousens as opposed to Simon Bowman, whose vibrato is just too much to bear someatimes. And Kevin Gray, well, fantastic! He really brought out the sinister character of the Engineer, stealing the show in my opinion. Sonia Swaby is a nice alternative as Gigi, (with somewhat of a 'cleaner' voice than the OLC), and Thuy is excellent also, providing an intense performance. The only weak link in my opinion is Hinton Battle as John, who, though he plays the American G.I. aspect of the character well, his ad libs in Bui Doi are simply awful, (a shame as it is one of my favourites).
As for the orhcestrations...well, the orchestrations don't seem to be too different from the original, but obviousley feel fuller.
My two favourite tracks are Back in Town/You will not touch him, as it's great to see it in its full form, (this bit also got me the most emotionally in the theatre, not Bui Doi or the ending, this bit), and The American Dream, with the dance section intact! I do however favour the original orchestrations for the dance section, (heard on 'The Heat is on' VHS), to the slinky saxaphone on this CD). I also love 'The Fall of Saigon'.
One thing mentioned alot when regarding Miss Saigon is the lyrics. Many complain about their simplicity, but apart from some occasional comically horiffic rhymes, ('first stop Bangkok, then I roam, cross that ocean white with foam'), I don't think the lyrcis are terrible at all.
What makes Saigon most special for me, (along with Phantom, Les Mis and Cats), is that I was in love with the music long before I ever saw the show, so it wasn't the helicopter, the cadillac, or the Ho Chi Minh statue that wowed me. It was the music, and this CD is a perfect testament to the fact that British (well, French/British in thisnd for making grown men across the world cry like babies, ;-). case), musicals don't depend on scenery after all. Bravo Boubil & Schonberg for a fantastic show, a...more info
- Great recording, but in the shadow of the OLC cast
This is a really great recording, the orchestra is powerful and as the name suggests it's a complete recording. But when you compare it with the power of the performances of the OLC cast, it really pales. I own both but I actaully rarely listen to this recording, because the OLC one is so very much better....more info
- Overall, nothing beats the OLC
I do like this recording because it does include all of the numbers including the amazing MORNING OF THE DRAGON, which is sung much better on here than on the OLC. Lea Salonga's KIM will always be the definitive Kim and Claire Moore's ELLEN is the best out of all of the casts. Henshall is WAY too bright and edgy with her voice. The role needs warmth as is evidenced by Claire Moore's voice. I saw both casts and I much prefer the OLC overall. Simon Bowman's vibrato is way too big and he goes out of tune. I don't like ANY of the Johns..yuck. If I had to pick one I would pick Peter P. from London and for sure NOT Hinton B. Jonathan Pryce was the best engineer. Gigi is much better in London than on this CD. Keith Burns, for all his faults, is a great Thuy and his "rock" voice is excellent for this. All of the other Thuys were so weak and wussy. I could never take them seriously.
The chorus is much better on this recording than on the OLC. I always felt that OLC Chorus forced too much and it was sometimes out of tune.
All in all nothing beats (and nothing will beat) the OLC. I know people who worked on the show in London from the beginning and have agreed that the OLC is, by far, the best overall....more info