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.