The recent confirmation that Miss Saigon will be returning to the West End in May 2014 has seen both the nostalgic audience from its first time round, and the virgin audience who missed it, practically wetting their pants with excitement, and who can blame them? I’m one of the newer generation of theatre fans who didn’t see this classic musical during its original run at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, where it closed just under fourteen years ago in October 1999, so I can’t wait for this second chance to experience the magic of Miss Saigon performed live on stage, instead of just through its soundtrack. Similarly, both my parents – who did see it when it was first in the West End, have never lost their love for the show and are just as excited to see it again as I am to see it for the first time.
At the end of the day, there are certain shows which are timeless and will never fail to appeal to both new and old theatre fans. Personally, there are a number of shows which I have never had the chance to see performed on stage and would absolutely love to; Miss Saigon is just one example. Another would be RENT, the critically acclaimed smash hit Broadway rock musical which tells the story of eight impoverished young creatives living in New York at the time of the AIDs epidemic. I have the 2005 film version which starred a selection of the stage musical’s original cast members, but I haven’t got round to watching it yet, and honestly, no matter how good it is it’s not going to be the same as seeing it performed right in front of you on a theatre stage. Opportunity may be knocking on the door once again however, as an off-West End production is set for a short run at London’s Tabard Theatre this August.
New company Pindar Theatre Productions are staging an all-new version of the musical in what is its 20th anniversary year. Jonathan Larson’s superb book, music and lyrics will be brought back to life in a production which is like ‘no other seen in London in recent years’, with director Nathan Rhys Farrell saying of the show: “I want reality, I want truth and I want to make an impact.” The cast for this new take on the musical was recently announced, featuring John Sandberg (Roger Davies), Jodie Steel (Mimi Marquez), Charlie Royce (Mark Cohen), Kirby Kunn (Maureen Johnson), William Whelton (Angel Dumott Schunard), Michael Quinn (Tom Collins), Amber Caserotti (Joanne Jefferson) and Waylon Jacobs (Benny Coffin). Performing roles within the show’s ensemble will be Charlotte Steen (Mrs Cohen), Sasha Latoya (Mrs Jefferson), Lydia Marcazzo (Alexi Darling), Shekinah McFarlane (Ali), Alistair Frederick (Mr Jefferson), Emanuel Alba (Gordon) and Wesley Dow (Paul).
The new production of RENT runs at the Tabard Theatre from 6th-31st August 2013 and is produced in association with theatre charity, the Make A Difference Trust, which it will be supporting. This collaboration has also resulted in a special Gala night to take place before the musical’s run at the theatre, with proceeds from the night going to MADTrust. On 15th July 2013, St Paul’s the Actors Church will host the RENT MAD Gala! The one-night-only event will feature special preview performances from the show’s cast members in what seems sure to be an unmissable night for any theatre fan, and in a special twist, the audience will also have the chance to share in the night in a very unique way. Tickets are also available which will allow theatre-goers to not only attend a 90 minute RENT workshop with the cast and creative team prior to the gala, but also join the cast on stage on the night to perform the RENT showstopper which was workshopped. The performance will be filmed and DVD’s available to buy so these audience members/performers will be able to relive their (hopefully) shining moment on stage as many times as they wish.
It may not be the West End, but that doesn’t mean that this exciting new production of the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning musical will be any less spectacular on the, admittedly less grand, stage of the Tabard Theatre. And for existing fans and RENT newbies alike, the opportunity to see what is undoubtedly one of the great musicals of our time here in the UK is one to grab with both hands. It’s a shame that Jonathan Larson never lived to see how successful his creation would become (he died from an aortic aneurysm the night before its off-Broadway premiere). But it still serves today as a lasting testament to his creative genius as its popularity has failed to diminish over the years and doesn’t seem likely to either.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Tuesday 25th June 2013