Based on Puccini’s classic opera Madame Butterfly, Miss Saigon is a story of love, hope and separation set in war ravaged Vietnam. To celebrate this wonderful show, Birmingham Hippodrome is transporting guests to Vietnam in the Circle restaurant, as well as the auditorium, with their special Miss Saigon dining experience & cocktails.
I was invited to get the full Miss Saigon experience with Brum Bloggers last week, where a group of us got to try sample dishes from the Miss Saigon menu and see the show.
Introduction: Saigon Cocktails & Canapes
We were welcomed into the Hippodrome via the Thorp Street entrance, where their lovely staff furnished us with Miss Saigon themed cocktails and canapes. The Sun & Moon was a sweet and fruity number with peach liqueur and orange juice, named after one of the songs in the show.
The trays of beautifully presented canapes included a cold pea and mint shot, seafood cocktail lettuce cups, goats cheese crostini and croquettes.
Despite being somewhat strange, the refreshing pea and mint shot was my favourite!
After having the chance to mingle and sample the food, we were introduced to the Hippodrome management team, then shown to our table at the Circle restaurant.
Knowing we were a group of bloggers that were clearly going to photograph our food, they couldn’t have given us better tables, situated right by the expansive glass windows looking out over the square.
Act I: Starters
We began with white bean soup, Vietnamese prawn summer rolls, salt beef croquettes and goats cheese mousse on walnut toast.
The white bean soup was smoky and garlicky, with a fresh, herby pesto drizzle. The goats cheese mousse was light and silky on a crisp slice of walnut toast, with fresh tomato and basil. The salt beef croquette was wonderfully comforting, with tender salt beef, crispy coating and a contrasting mooli and caper salad. My favourite though, was the Vietnamese summer roll. A far cry from the greasy spring rolls I’m used to, the summer roll had a paper thin wrapper, stuffed with juicy prawn and crunchy veg, with a sweet chilli sauce dressing.
Act II: Mains
For our mains, we again got miniature portions of all four dishes on the menu.
I started with the coriander crusted pork tenderloin on a bed of soy and sesame braised savoy cabbage. I wouldn’t have thought to pair pork and coriander, but the result was delicious, with sweet, tender pork and an earthy coriander crust. The soy and sesame braised cabbage was absolutely delicious, and something I’m definitely going to try at home.
Next was pan-seared coley fillet with rice noodle, samphire, ginger and onion broth. The flaky, crisp skinned fish was balanced on top of the warming, ginger and onion broth, giving a wonderfully balanced and interesting mouthful.
The oriental twist on a Scotch egg was the third dish, foregoing meat for yellow curry lentils. The spicy, fragrant lentils surrounded a perfectly soft boiled egg, totally delicious
My favourite was the final dish though, honey brushed confit duck leg with celeriac puree, bok choy and star anise jus.
The sweet, honeyed duck was meltingly tender, complimented by the earthy, herbal notes of the star anise, while the crisp bok choy gave a wonderful contrast in texture. I would certainly order the full size version of this next time.
After being totally carried away with the wonderful company, conversation and food, we quickly finished up our mains before being taken to our seats for the show.
The wonderful thing about Birmingham Hippodrome is that no matter where you sit, you get a great view of the stage (I was in seat R29). We waited with baited breath for the performance to start.
Miss Saigon: Act I
The scene begins with a flurry of action. Kim (Sooha Kim), a country girl transplanted into the buzzing city of Saigon, meets The Engineer (Red Concepcion) who recruits her as a good-time girl for his bar, Dreamland.
Frequented by GI’s looking for beautiful, exotic Vietnamese women to spend the night with, the first musical number is a thrilling spectacle as the female cast members take centre stage in a raunchy parade, yet emotions soon turn to sadness, as the ignorance of the GI’s, and the hopes and dreams of the girls are exposed with Gigi’s heart-rending performance of “The Movie In My Mind.”
Yet there is hope, as innocent Kim meets sensitive Chris (Ashley Gilmour), and a whirlwind romance ensues. Chris falls hopelessly in love with Kim despite knowing so little of her life and culture. The pair marry in a traditional Vietnamese ceremony, and he promises to take her home with him to a new life in America.
There is drama when Kim’s betrothed husband Thuy (Gerald Santos) arrives to disrupt the wedding. Kim & Chris swear their love for each other and carry on, but their plans are shattered when the troops are suddenly evacuated from Saigon.
The staging of the helicopter evacuation scene is absolutely breathtaking. Your heart breaks as Chris disappears on the chopper, scanning the crowd below for Kim, who is tragically left behind as Saigon falls.
Three years later, Thuy is now the Assistant Commissar in the Vietnamese army, and is desperately searching for Kim in the ruins of Saigon. Against all odds, The Engineer finds her and leads her to Thuy, and in a dramatic finale, we discover that Chris left behind more than just a lover in Vietnam.
The Engineer and Kim plan their escape as the curtain falls on Act I.
Curtain Call: Desserts
During the interval we were whisked away to the Gowling Suite – one of the Hippodrome’s conference rooms – for a miniature trio of desserts.
We enjoyed poached peach and pistachio cake, green tea panna cotta with sesame tuille and a bitter chocolate tart with lychee, strawberry and mint compote.
The pistachio cake was moist, with an enchanting green colour and lovely pistachio flavour. The green tea panna cotta was silky smooth, contrasting with the crunchy sesame tuille, and had a subtle but delicious tea flavour.
The star of the show for me was the bitter chocolate tart, with rich, decadent chocolate and a perfumed fruit compote.
With our desserts devoured, and a short but sweet address from the Hippodrome management, we were ushered back to the auditorium for the second part of the show.
Miss Saigon: Act II
We begin Act II in Atlanta. The action opens with a stunning performance from John (Ryan O’Gorman) of “Bui Doi” – the dust of life. Now working for an organisation to find and support the mixed race children left behind in Vietnam by their GI fathers, he delivers the bombshell to Chris and his now wife Ellen (Zoe Doano) that Kim is alive in Bangkok, and she has a son.
In scenes uncannily similar to Saigon, The Engineer is now in Bangkok, working for what appears to be a pimp, in a club full of dancing girls that includes Kim. Fuelled by the hope that she will be reunited with Chris if only she can make it to the US, Kim soldiers on, while The Engineer shares his extravagant visions of his American dream.
When Chris and Ellen follow John to Bangkok to find Kim and her son Tam, their meeting is anything but the romantic reunion she has dreamed of. After learning of Chris’s marriage, Kim and Ellen come face to face, crushing Kim’s hope of reconciliation with Chris, and throwing Ellen into a crisis of conscience where she contemplates leaving Chris, and how they can give hope for the future to Tam.
The tear-jerking finale left nearly everyone in the audience reaching for the tissues, and discussing the far reaching consequences, both physical and emotional, of war both then, in Vietnam, and now.
I cannot overstate the brilliance of this performance. The staging literally takes your breath away, with multiple, seamless scene changes and some seriously impressive effects. Then there is the stunning cast, who blend the hilarity and horror of the story into one beautiful rollercoaster ride, peppered with beautiful songs.
Couple this with the amazing dining experience inspired by the show, and you have one extremely special night that I sincerely hope you get to try.
Miss Saigon is at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 23rd of September, you can book tickets online. Choose from two courses at £24.50 or three at £29.50 in the Circle Restaurant with the Miss Saigon menu, and enjoy dessert and drinks at your reserved table during the interval.
Huge thanks to Brum Bloggers and Birmingham Hippodrome for my Miss Saigon experience. My meal and tickets to the show were complimentary, my heartfelt praise for the whole evening is all my own, and I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.