If you see a line of weeping women in Sunderland in the coming weeks, the chances are they have just been to see Miss Saigon.

It’s fair to say the Cameron Mackintosh production, at Sunderland’s Empire Theatre until November 17, is a tear jerker.

Set during the final days of the Vietnam war, and the years following the conflict, the musical is the story of an ill-fated romance between 17-year-old Kim (Sooha Kim) and American GI Chris (Ashley Gilmour) and their unlikely love which starts when he pays $50 for the pleasure of her company.

Separated after the fall of Saigon, the second act follows her journey to find Chris in the hope of uniting him with their son.

Boublil and Schonberg’s musical doesn’t have a lot of the “feel good” factor as it oscillates between the sleaziness of establishments set up to service the needs of American army, and he epic, emotionally-wrought numbers, sung with heart by Kim.

Miss Saigon, an epic set in the closing stages of the Vietnam War
Miss Saigon, an epic set in the closing stages of the Vietnam War

But from the bright lights of Saigon and Bangkok to the early days of reunification and the incredible evacuation of the American embassy by a three-ton helicopter, some of the staging is truly exceptional and the choreography is equally impressive.

Leo Tavarro Valdez’s Engineer was the stand-out performance, while North-East actor Ryan O’Gorman was also strong as GI John.

When Miss Saigon first hit the West End in 1989, the Vietnam war will still have been fresh in the consciousness of many of those who turned out to watch it. Almost 30 years later, the decade-long conflict is no more than history to a growing proportion of the audiences, but its themes of love, grief and sacrifice still resonate.

Rachel Conner-Hill