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The heat is on in Saigon and other headlines of the week

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No sooner did Cameron Mackintosh announce last month that he will be taking Les Miserables back to Broadway next year, re-opening at the Imperial Theatre in March where it previously played the majority of its original record-breaking Broadway run after originally opening at the Broadway Theatre, than he has now announced that he is also bringing Boublil and Schonberg’s follow-up hit Miss Saigon back to the West End’s Prince Edward Theatre next May as well.

Neither, however, are being staged in their original productions (by Trevor Nunn and John Caird in the case of Les Miserables, and Nick Hytner in the case of Miss Saigon), but in hybrids that were previously originally created to tour. Each has elements of the original – for Les Mis, that includes Andreane Neofitou’s costumes (with a credit for additional costumes to Christine Rowlands), and for Miss Saigon, Bob Avian’s choreography (with a credit for additional choreography to Geoffrey Garratt) and William David Brohn’s orchestrations.

But is it an attempt to write the original productions out of the history books? Already Mackintosh is declaring of the new Les Mis, that he toured in the UK for its 25th anniversary,

I feel really blessed that not only has my new production of Les Miserables been embraced by audiences and critics alike, even more fervently than the original, but Phil Smith and Bob Wankel of the Shubert Organization have kindly arranged for me to bring Cosette back to her spiritual home on Broadway, the Imperial Theatre.

It may also helpfully bury the memory of an intervening revival of Les Mis, recreating Nunn and Caird’s original staging, that came back to Broadway’s Broadhurst Theatre just three years after the original closed in 2003, but only mustered a run of just over 14 months. This version is co-directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell (the latter of whom is soon to be represented in the West End by the return of his production of Dirty Dancing to the Piccadilly).

Meanwhile Connor, who also re-made The Phantom of the Opera for a UK national tour last year that again retained only Maria Bjornson’s original costumes, is also responsible for the new production of Miss Saigon, and Mackintosh declares,

The new production has taken a more gritty and realistic approach to the design than the operatic original but still delivers the power and epic sweep of Boublil and Schonberg’s great score.

As the producer (or co-producer) of each of those shows, Mackintosh is obviously intent on proving that each show is bigger than the productions that originally turned them into global box office smashes. Let’s hope his confidence is well placed.

Oliviers to recognise musical contributions

Musical supervisors and musical directors are an integral part of the creative team of a musical – and indeed, long after the rest of the personnel move onto other projects, the musical director is the last remaining person to stay attached to a show and guarantee its ongoing maintenance on a night-to-night basis.

Yet until now, their work has remained officially unrecognised in the annual awards rounds, and in particular (and most hurtfully) the industry’s own Laurence Olivier Awards. At last, and proving that a well-orchestrated public campaign can pay off (led by Mike Dixon and Gareth Valentine), a new category is being introduced next year for outstanding achievement in music. According to SOLT,  this “will bring together potential nominations across the music fields” including ‘composition of original music for plays, orchestration and musical supervision/direction’.

It is long overdue.

Rumblings of discontent

As reported in The Stage, the Young Vic is currently negotiating with BECTU to restructure the staffing of its front-of-house positions amongst the box office and its ushering personnel.

I am sure there are many sides to this story, but some of the staff, past and present, are offering theirs on a blog that is proving to be riveting reading. From this it is clear that a palpable sense of dissatisfaction, disappointment and fear is permeating some of the staff affected.

It can’t be easy to run your industrial relations in the age of Twitter and blogs that are making a private matter so publicly visible, but it’s a lesson to us all.

A reality check

Finally, a reality check on what really matters is provided by Chiwetel Ejiofor, soon to star in the Young Vic’s next show A Season in the Congo, interviewed in last weekend’s Observer about visiting the Congo himself to research the play:

I flew back and I remember the next day was sitting in Tate Modern having a coffee in that rooftop cafe there. I was looking out and thinking, you know, which one is the real world? It seems impossible that they can co-exist. And actually, probably this world of theatres and galleries is the strange fantasy, and most people in the world live lives closer to those desperate people on the verge of collapse every day.

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