Pop-opera 'Miss Saigon' lands in Royal Oak

ROYAL OAK - Audiences may be wondering how Stagecrafters is going to pull off the iconic evacuation scene of "Miss Saigon" when a 1975 Huey helicopter lands on stage. More than just lights and sound effects, a scaled replica of the helicopter has been meticulously constructed by a volunteer and compliments the grand musical score and compelling story of love and loss.

Stagecrafters presents the pop-opera "Miss Saigon" on stage May 29 through June 21 at the Baldwin Theatre in downtown Royal Oak.

In this 20th century retelling of the Puccini opera Madame Butterfly, Kim, a Vietnamese bargirl (Shea Renne of Bloomfield), and Chris, an American marine (Vince Kelley of Roseville), fall in love in the waning days of the Vietnam War. As Saigon falls, the two are separated. Through the intervention of "The Engineer," a seedy entrepreneur (Gary Castaneda of Detroit), and John, Chris' friend and fellow GI (Dan Hartley of Waterford), the lovers are reunited years later only to find that their lives have both changed immeasurably in the interim.

"Miss Saigon" debuted in London's West End in 1989 and instantly became the second smash hit for composing team Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, the musical minds behind the similarly epic "Les Miserables." When it opened on Broadway in 1991, "Miss Saigon" broke several Broadway records, including record advance-ticket sales of $24 million, and, with its famed helicopter evacuation scene atop the embassy roof, set a new standard for what could be depicted on a Broadway stage.

The faux helicopter used in the production was designed and constructed by Stagecrafters' member Craig Morgan of Bloomfield Hills. Morgan has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Wayne State University. He began researching and designing the helicopter in December 2008 and expects to deliver the 80-percent scaled replica to the Baldwin Theatre two weeks prior to the production opening.

Stagecrafters director John Deierlein first saw "Miss Saigon" in 1990 while in London and has seen it several times since in a variety of venues. "Each time," Deierlein said in a press release, "I found myself mesmerized by the haunting story and beautiful music, and thoughts of the show would stay with me for days and sometimes weeks afterwards."

Having long considered it to be his favorite musical, Deierlein was honored and delighted to be given the opportunity to direct Oakland County's first community theater production of "Miss Saigon" in a venue that befits the magnificence of the musical. "'Miss Saigon' can be considered a modern version of the Grand Opera of old," he said, "and what better place to perform it than in this grand old building, the beautiful Baldwin Theatre?"

'Miss Saigon'

May 29-June 21

Baldwin Theatre

415 S. Lafayette, Royal Oak



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