Everyone comes expecting the helicopter, Artistic Director Jim Charles said of Miss Saigon, now being staged by C-R Productions at Cohoes Music Hall. When the show first opened on Broadway, the real helicopter used on stage became the talk of the performance.
`We have a great helicopter effect,` Charles said. `We have a great scenic design team that works all year. We went round and round about how we would do this on our small stage. `
The end result, he said, often gets applause.
But `Miss Saigon` is about much more than a helicopter. Based on Puccini’s opera `Madame Butterfly,` the musical tells the story of Chris, an American GI in Vietnam, and Kim, his lover and mother of his child. When Saigon falls, Chris leaves on the last helicopter, which Kim is unable to board. Later, he and his American wife meet Kim, along with her and Chris’ son Tam in Bangkok. Kim takes her own life so that her son can go to America with his father.
`It’s bittersweet,` said Yvonne Same, the California native who is playing Kim. `She’s done what any mother would do in that situation. She sacrifices herself so her child can have a better life.`
`This is a poignant story that needs to be told and re-told,` Charles said, who said the show is more moving than depressing.
`When the final curtain goes down, you can hear a pin drop,` he said. `There’s a second before the audience starts clapping. That’s a good thing; the audience is caught up in the story. As they’re leaving, we hear them say that they can’t wait to tell their friends about the show.`
Now in its fifth season, Charles said C-R Productions felt it can begin to take more chances with the shows it offers. While choosing `Miss Saigon,` he said the company was looking for something as moving as `Ragtime` had been last season, and something not yet performed in the Capital District.
`This is happening all over again,` he said of the wartime situation that is the setting for `Miss Saigon.`
`The story is for mature audiences; it’s heavy on love, and it depicts the changing of the guard in Vietnam, the change in culture and society,` he said.
Charles said that casting has become easier with every show, but finding enough Asian people for `Miss Saigon` proved challenging. Many of the supporting players came from the New York City area, but Charles said this show represents the largest number of local actors in a C-R Productions show to date.
Brendan Hoffman, playing the lead role of Chris, is one of those local actors. He’s a music teacher at Albany High School. He has played lead roles at Park Playhouse in the summer, done ensemble work at Lake George Opera and sung solo classical pieces with local groups like Albany Pro Musica.
`This is a dream role for me,` he said of his character, Chris. `It’s the type of show and role I’ve longed to do.`
Hoffman described his character as someone who could be thought of as a real jerk, or someone trying to make a tough decision.
`You don’t get a lot of the story, like what happens when he goes home,` Hoffman said. `He loves his American wife, and although the decision he makes is more about him, it’s the best decision at the time.`
Everyone involved in the show has a great deal of admiration for their co-stars.
`People should know this is an incredible pool of awesome performers,` Hoffman said. `It’s a huge show and we do it really well. It’s worth everyone coming out to see it.`
`We have a seven-piece full-time orchestra,` Charles said. `The actors don’t take a break; this is essentially an opera. The leads are great; the supporting actors are great. People are blown away by the music and by what we can do.`
`Miss Saigon` will be performed through Nov. 11, on Thursday evenings at 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. On Saturday, Nov. 10, there will be a 3 p.m. matinee. Tickets range in price from $23 to $32, with 20 percent off on Thursdays. For information or to purchase tickets, call 237-5858 or visit www.cohoesmusichall.com. Cohoes Music Hall is located at 58 Remsen St. in Cohoes.“