AS the lights dimmed and the sound of a helicopter thundered over our heads, Cameron Mackintosh’s musical masterpiece swept us away on an epic, emotionally-turbulent journey.

Set during the Vietnam War, this stunning tale of love and loss based on Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, tells the tragic story of Kim, a 17-year-old girl forced into prostitution after her village is bombed and her family killed.

When she is introduced to Chris, a war weary GI, love blossoms one night only to be torn apart when the Americans are forced to evacuate.

Kim spends the next three years trying to find her way back to Chris who is unaware that he has fathered a son.

All of the key characters are brilliant, but the part of Kim on this night was played by the talented Joreen Bautista (she’s just turned 18 and shares this demanding role with Sooha Kim) who hit every note with effortless purity. Particular highlights included, I’d Give My Life For You and her duet of Movie in My Mind with Kristine Diaz who plays fellow bar girl Gigi.

Ashley Gilmour captures the role of Chris with equal passion and sincerity, and actor Red Concepcion almost steals the show with his captivating portrayal of the sleazy Engineer.

Although I didn’t see anyone sobbing into their hankies, unlike the first time I saw this show many years ago, there were many moving moments. A film of the Bui Doi played on a big screen showing the children born as a result of liaisons between US soldiers and the Vietnamese, was especially poignant.

Overall Mackintosh’s highly acclaimed production of Boublil and Schonberg’s Miss Saigon is immense, it’s colourful, powerful and surprisingly raunchy at times. A feast for all the senses, from staging to storytelling to the choreography and breath-taking special effects. You would almost believe there is a full-sized chopper on stage!

Apparently it took 19 lorries to bring this little bit of Broadway magic to the Mayflower so don’t miss it.

Runs until March 17