Certain theatres in London’s West End may be synonymous with certain shows – Her Majesty’s Theatre and The Phantom of the Opera being a case in point. It can’t stay that way forever though and at some point in time, whether it is two years or twenty, one production will leave only for another to take its place. Just as you wouldn’t want to eat the same set menu every day for the rest of your life, nor do you want to see the same buffet of shows – variety is, after all, the spice of life. So when an empty plate is put on the table, it’s a deliciously tantalising moment: it is however, down to individual taste as to what you may want to see fill it. For some, it may be the arrival of the jukebox musical or the film-adapted musical which excites them, or the return of an old favourite perhaps? It could even be a much-raved over Broadway transfer.
Last week, there was a lot of talk about two particular shows which are winging their way here in 2013: the Tony Award-winning Once and the revival of Miss Saigon.
John Tiffany’s production of Once opened at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in March 2012 and has become one of Broadway’s biggest hits, with a critic for The New York Times writing that it feels, “as vital and surprising as the early spring that has crept up on Manhattan.” Irish playwright Enda Walsh wrote the book of the musical, which was adapted from John Carney’s 2006 film of the same name. Glen Hansard and Marketa Inrglova are the talented composers/lyricists behind such songs as ‘The Hill’, ‘Sleeping’ and the Academy Award-winning ‘Falling Slowly’, and a great many of the songs they wrote for the film feature in the stage musical, with a couple of additions from other writers. It is the story of an Irish busker (Guy) and a young Czech mother (Girl) who are brought together by a shared love of music which grows into a longing love of one another. Once was clearly loved by the theatre community too, receiving eleven Tony Award nominations and walking away with eight, including ‘Best Musical’ and ‘Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical’ for Steve Kazee, who played ‘Guy’ opposite Cristin Milioti (Girl). While the Broadway production continues to thrive across the sea, a new production is set to play at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin for a short run in early 2013 (22nd February-9th March) before it transfers to the Phoenix Theatre in the West End, (opens 9th April) where a lot of people are eagerly awaiting its arrival. Casting is due to be announced shortly.
Miss Saigon on the other hand, is an old friend here in the West End. Cameron Mackintosh’s beloved musical was last seen here in 1999, when it closed at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane after a ten year run. It was written by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil – who are also behind mega-musical Les Miserables – with lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby Jr, having birthed such classic songs as ‘The Movie In My Mind’, ‘Why, God, Why?’ and ‘Last Night of the World’. Based on the opera Madame Butterfly, it tells the story of an American GI (Chris) and a young Vietnam girl (Kim) who fall in love amidst the backdrop of 1970’S Saigon and are subsequently separated by the Vietnam War. Originally starring Filipino actress Lea Salonga and Simon Bowman as the doomed lovers, the award-winning Miss Saigon went on to become a global success, and now, the highly anticipated West End revival of the musical is being planned for autumn 2013, with the Prince Edward Theatre rumoured to be its new home. It was recently announced that auditions are to be held at the Opera Haus, Manila in the search to find a girl to play the role of seventeen year old Vietnamese bar girl ‘Kim’, in addition to ensemble cast members.
I have to admit that I’m very keen to see both of these musicals in the West End, but I’d be hard-pressed to say which I’m anticipating more. On the one hand, Once is a brand-new stage musical which has received rave reviews in America, while on the other, Miss Saigon is a show I know very well without having ever actually seen on stage though. Discovering a new musical and experiencing everything – the score, the story, the design and so on – for the first time is a wonderful thing, but equally as wonderful is the long-awaited opportunity to visually enjoy a story as gripping and heart-wrenching as Miss Saigon. The Broadway transfer against the London West End revival…which are you most looking forward to?
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Tuesday 16th October 2012