It was a sultry day in the mid-70s, moisture hanging in the air, as patrons gathered Saturday at the Ogunquit Playhouse. The calendar indicated the second day of fall, but Mother Nature seemed to be delaying the season in order to set the scene for the playhouse’s final production of 2011, “Miss Saigon.”

A steamy story of love and passion, born out of war, awaited the audience inside the theater. The heat was definitely on in Ogunquit’s version of Saigon. 

Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, the composers of “Les Miserables,” collaborated with Richard Maltby Jr. to create the epic story of “Miss Saigon.” In many ways, it echoes the style and music of “Les Miserables.”

Inspired by Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly,” “Miss Saigon” relocates the tragic love story from early 20th century Japan to Saigon during the Vietnam War. Through song, the tale of star-crossed lovers Chris and Kim unfolds.

Ogunquit has assembled a star-studded cast and crew for its season finale. Paul Dobie, who served as the assistant director of “Wicked” on Broadway for the past four years, directs the production. Robert Tatad, who was a member of the Broadway and National Touring companies of “Miss Saigon,” provides choreography. 

Jennifer Paz, Gregg Goodbrod and Raul Aranas star as Kim, Chris and the Engineer. All three come to the production with prior “Miss Saigon” experience. Aranas’ resume boasts appearances on Broadway, in London and in the original 1st Company National Tour with Paz.  

The stage sizzled with emotion Saturday. Paz delivered a heartbreaking performance as the young Vietnamese woman, Kim, left behind with the fall of Saigon by her American GI lover, Chris. A sweet sadness resounded in her dynamic vocals, capturing both her character’s vulnerability and undying love.

Goodbrod fit the bill as Chris, offering a ruggedly handsome physique, combined with a dash of boyish charm and naivet?The audience could feel the conflict raging inside his character as he delivered the gripping “Why God, Why?,” his face crumpling with anguish as his powerful vocals rang out over the audience.

“Les Miserables” has the Thenardiers to lighten the mood. “Miss Saigon” has the Engineer, a multi-faceted character who would do anything to get to America. Aranas charmed the audience with an ease and flair that was a credit to his experience and talent, delivering show-stopping renditions of “If You Want To Die In Bed” and “The American Dream.”

There were several standout performances in the 25-member cast of singers and dancers. Nik Walker provided a touch of soul as Chris’ friend, John. Silence gripped the audience as he sang about the Vietnamese children fathered in the war in “Bui-Doi,” while images of Vietnamese children flashed on a screen above the stage.

Austin Ku delivered a potent performance as Thuy, Kim’s jilted betrothed, and Amanda Rose was memorable as Chris’ wife, Ellen. Ya Han Chang also stood out as Gigi, lamenting the loss of her dreams in “The Movie In My Mind.” And, 5-year-old Yamilah Saravong was adorable as Kim’s son, Tam. She is one of three children performing the role during the play’s run.

Ogunquit has pulled out all the stops to deliver a season-ending production that will leave audiences wanting more. It’s packed with a talented cast and plenty of visual and sound effects to transport the audience into the haunting, war-torn setting of the epic love story. 

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco.  She can be contacted at:

[email protected]