MISS SAIGON, Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. This in-the-round staging of Claude-Michel Schonberg, Alain Boublil, and Richard Maltby Jr.'s pop opera proves it's possible to do Miss Saigon without Broadway-style spectacle--and that sans spectacle (like the original Broadway production's famous helicopter) the material is pretty shallow. Resetting the story of Madama Butterfly to the mid-1970s, Miss Saigon symbolizes America's disastrous involvement in southeast Asia in the affair of a U.S. marine, Chris, and a Vietnamese B-girl, Kim; the son born of their brief fling represents all the orphaned or abandoned innocents left in the war's wake.
Unfortunately, the characters come off here as stick figures whose conflicts and coincidence-packed interactions seem setups to prove the authors' points. Repetitive melodies and pedestrian lyrics belabor the story rather than develop it.
Dyanne Earley and Joe Leonardo's direction and Harrison McEldowney's choreography keep the evening moving briskly despite some sight line problems. Stephen R. Buntrock delivers powerhouse vocals as Chris; Emy Baysic as Kim looks and sounds lovely, though she's rather bland and obviously too old for the teenage character. Jim Corti as Kim's sleazy Eurasian pimp is a superb song-and-dance man but lacks the feral desperation the role requires; the supporting cast and large chorus are consistently strong. Best of all is Kevin Stites's music direction; there's more poignance in the gentle, haunting whine of the Asian flute than in all the breast-beating that dominates the show.