Excerpts from Michael Feingold’s review of Miss Saigon

The following is excerpted from Michael Feingold’s review of Miss Saigon, originally published in The Village Voice, April 1991:

“Every civilization gets the theater it deserves, and we get Miss Saigon, which means we can now say definitively that our civilization is over.   After this, I see no way out but an aggressive clearance program: All the Broadway theaters must be demolished… all the members of the League of New York Theaters must be lined up and shot; the New York Times must be firebombed into nothingness and its entire editorial staff (most of whom are composed wholly of gravel and pitch anyway) fed into a stonecrusher and used to repave the West Side Highway; while anyone found to have voluntarily purchased a $100 ticket to Miss Saigon must be sentenced to a lifetime of hard labor and have his or her children cooked and distributed as food supplies to famine areas in the Third World.  The authors, one hopes, will have the grace to commit ritual suicide…while Cameron Mackintosh and his production staff should be slowly beaten to death with blunt instruments… In answer to your next question, no, I didn’t like Miss Saigon.”


“To impose the kitsch tragedy of the betrayed geisha and her feckless American lover on the very real tragedy of the betrayed Asian country is a trick of exploitation that someone involved with Miss Saigon must have thought very clever.”


“At the top of Act II, Miss Saigon trespasses on reality in a way that’s far more revolting than any of its fictive steps over the boundary line… what looks like real documentary footage of half-American Vietnamese children in an orphanage is shown.  I write this with my mental fingers crossed, hoping against hope that the press representative will call tomorrow to tell me… that the whole thing is a replica, that the producers are donating a 10th of their proceeds to the relief of Vietnamese war orphans.  But I’m not taking any bets on the arrival of that phone call.  You can assume provisionally that the creators of Miss Saigon see absolutely nothing wrong in using the real anguish of genuine abandoned children to jerk a few extra tears on their way to parlaying themselves a multimillion-dollar profit.”


“Miss Saigon’s perpetrators may respond that their work has a serious intent; to indict the world, and America in particular, for its unfeeling materialistic greed.  Sermonizing in this vein has always paid off for melodramatists, at popular prices, but it gets a tad shady when they demand a C-note for the privilege of hearing their sermon, especially when its theme, on which they have nothing new or imaginative to say, is so old and familiar.”