Cinemas across the country have been packed with musical theatre fans today for a one-day only showing of Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Miss Saigon. When the show closed all too early at the Prince Edward Theatre in February this year, Mackintosh announced that it had been filmed and would be shown in cinemas in October. That day is now here – indeed ‘This is the hour’.

This cinema version is unbelievably close-up. The camera pans right in to the heart – and heartbreak – of the story, guiding the cinematic audience, revealing the story in a slightly different way to the stage version, where the audience naturally has the scope of the whole stage canvas.

The early scenes in the Engineer’s Dreamland club in ‘The Heat Is On’ feature furtive camera movements conveying the chaos of the situation. Film director Brett Sullivan also effectively cuts two camera angles into one shot of Kim next to Chris and Ellen at the end of ‘I Still Believe’.

A few sequences have historical film footage interspersed with the action on stage – ‘Bui Doi’ always uses video footage in the stage version but this was used to even greater effect in the cinema, with close-ups of the abandoned children bringing home the reality of the situation to the cinematic audience much more. ‘Kim’s Nightmare’ also starts with a video clip, and the famous helicopter sequence with Kim getting stranded and separated from Chris was unbelievably harrowing with the close-ups and the camera focussing on the raw emotion of an impossible situation.

The closeness of the camera sharpens the violent and sexual elements of the piece too. The violence is particularly graphic when viewed ‘close-up’, and the bedroom scenes which were far off on stage are also more explicit. The confrontation scenes in the second half when Kim discovers that Chris is married to Ellen are also well done with some good close-ups – lingering a moment on Kim’s devastation when she meets Ellen and realises who she is.

This 25th Anniversary celebration features the original London revival cast, led by Jon Jon Briones as the Engineer, Eva Noblezada as Kim and Alistair Brammer as Chris. Their superlative performances have already been reviewed elsewhere on this site and Mackintosh was wise to preserve Laurence Connor’s reinvention of one of the most powerful musicals ever written on film.

As if the full-length performance of the show itself wasn’t enough, this one-day cinema release also features an extra half hour of the 25th Anniversary night’s celebrations. I was lucky enough to be watching the performance in the theatre that night and the atmosphere was electric as the original Kim, Lea Salonga, returned, singing ‘Last Night of the World’ with her original Chris, Simon Bowman, with Brammer and Noblezada joining them. Jonathan Pryce reprises ‘The American Dream’ too, with Mackintosh and the show’s writers, Boublil and Schönberg, driving onstage to much applause.

As always with Miss Saigon, it is such a multi-textured piece that no matter how many times one sees it, you can’t help but notice different subtleties each time – surely evidence of the strength of the material. Now thanks to this cinema release and a forthcoming DVD release, fans of the show can watch it as many times as their emotions can brave the heart-wrenching story. But watching Miss Saigon live on stage is an even richer experience, and the show is set to return to Broadway for a limited engagement from 1 March 2017 in a production headed by Jon Jon Briones and Eva Noblezada, while a major UK tour of the show will open at Leicester Curve on 3 July. The heat will still be on in Saigon for a good while yet.