I am not sure the musical Miss Saigon is the best choice for most community theater groups, especially in relatively small southern cities. It would be good for university groups and professional units, but I am unconvinced it is the greatest choice for local theater. I acknowledge that these actors do it for their love of performing and in the case of the cast of Columbia's Town Theater, they put a lot of energy and effort into their presentation and you could see that most were enjoying themselves on stage. Nevertheless it was at times difficult to get into their characters when many were miscast (through no fault of their own, I am sure). Obviously there is a limited pool of young Asian actors in Columbia and there is only so much one can do with costuming, and you have to work with the actors who want to be in the cast. Do not assume, however, that I am being critical of the job they did, because that is not the case. I felt they were great. But when you think of a Vietnamese strip club, you kind of expect younger, Asian faces (and bodies) in the room, and the same goes for the soldiers. And when Vietcong commandos appear, they really shouldn't look like Americans. Although the female lead was lovely and sang well, perhaps they could have provided her some spray-on tan and jet-black wig, and made her look more Vietnamese. Just saying. Yes, I know there are obvious contraints to realism that a local theater troupe can do, with limitations in budget and manpower, so those who choose the schedule should be a little more careful picking shows.
That being said, I thought the cast did a very good job with the material and I enjoyed their presentation. The second half was way better than the first. "Bui Doi" and "The American Dream" were delightful and strong numbers. "Fall of Saigon" was a complicated scene, but they pulled it off rather well, and the helicopter was great. Will Moreau was quite good and funny as the Engineer, though at times it was hard to understand him. Perhaps that was because of the sound system, and he was not the only actor with this problem at times. Lanny Spires did a good job as Chris; for some reason I would have liked a deeper voice, however. I think he would be great in Rent though. Parker Bynum was very good for a young actor, and he was one of the few who really seemed to have a presence. Shelby Sessler did a good job in the lead role, as did Karly Minacapelli as Ellen. Luke Young stole his scenes (especially when he yawned), but isn't that always the case with the cute youngster cast members. Overall I think everyone did a pretty good job .
It has been a long time since I was in Town Theater, and they have fixed the place up. The chairs were a little uncomfortable (and I heard that from a few people around me). I thought I was going to have more leg room when I got a front-row ticket, but I didn't account for the temporary orchestra pit. I wish they could have adjusted their lights a bit, because they shone right in my eyes. But it is the first time I have attended theater with live music, and that was interesting (I kept imagining that this is the way it used to be). It is a small and cozy place (I would feel a little better if there was an exit on the right side as well).
Bravo to the cast. I definitely will try to attend shows there in the future, and also at some of the other local playhouses. Plenty of time to catch performances because they will be doing this show until 26 May.