BWW Interviews: MISS SAIGON's Hugh Maynard!

Hugh Maynard is beaming in the London sunshine as we meet at the Prince Edward Theatre to reflect on his return to the role of John in Miss Saigon.

"It's going amazingly - a ride and a half," he says. "I was fortunate enough to do the original tour - our director Lawrence Connor's directorial debut. Cameron [Mackintosh] and I go back even further."

He thinks that the gap between his initial take on the part and this West End revival has been beneficial for his interpretation.

"It's been 11 years," he points out. "I've aged, I've matured, I have a lot more life experience, so coming back to the role I can examine it from a lot more different angles. We adapt as we grow.

"It's a joy - I'm more comfortable in my own shoes and give more, whereas before you do as you're asked rather than experiment!"

Maynard says that Mackintosh has been very free in giving out hints and tips to tweak the performance.

"He asked me to riff, I've never heard him say that before! And that's the Bui Doi that I sing - it gives me the freedom to express differently every night."

Maynard may be returning to the role - but many of the young cast weren't born when the show first opened at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

"I hadn't realised how young they were! It doesn't matter so much mentally but when we do the physical warm-up...Age-wise you do realise you're getting on a bit. People might come to you with questions; we're very much a family here. The fun comes from being so close."

It's a fun company, but a show with serious emotive subject matter, which can be difficult for actors to deal with.

"It was my biggest fear when Cameron asked me to play John - previously I didn't know how to handle the emotional side of the show," admits Maynard.

"I was just as distraught the last night as the first night. For months after our final show, Sebastian Tan, Kerry Ellis, Steven Houghton and I would Skype from wherever we were in the world, and just deal with the show that we'd done. It's an emotional rollercoaster every day - then it stops, and there's no counselling, and you've invested yourself in it. Now, with maturity, I can talk about it, and that helps hugely."

He talks about the famous photo that gave creators Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil the inspiration to set the updated story of Madame Butterfly in the Vietnam War.

"It's still poignant. We haven't yet had a day when we haven't had war and we haven't had love. What's changed has been the media presence - we can get closer and we can capture what's going on - but it's still horrific what's going on out there."

He mentions his brother, serving in the armed forces, and the ongoing conflicts across the world as well as the footage emanating from there.

"Seeing Miss Saigon brings home what's really going on in the world - as humans, we're not learning. We don't seem to want to change. There's this musical about the war - and it's an amazing piece, and I feel truly privileged to be a part of it."

But Miss Saigon isn't his only commitment at the moment.

Maynard has been heavily involved with charity work for many years, drawing on his own difficult start to life in order to help young people in tough circumstances.

A different facet of that has been his involvement with the recent West End Week, giving children the chance to have a taste of life on stage.

"It's a great experience," he says. "I feel like we're opening the door to theatre, making it accessible for everyone. I hadn't realised until I was actually in theatre just how difficult it can be. People think you make a phone call, get an interview, get a job - but you train, spend thousands of pounds, audition, and maybe you still don't get the job.

"West End Week gives young people a chance to express themselves - they get on a West End stage, they sing a song, and if they fall over, they get up, smile and get on with it - because that's life."

Maynard beams again, a man evidently hugely content with himself and his work - but wanting to improve things for others as well.

Miss Saigon runs at the Prince Edward Theatre; the live cast recording will be released in September.

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From This Author Carrie Dunn

Carrie is the UK editor-in-chief for BroadwayWorld. After spending her formative years reading books and ending up with a Masters degree in English literature from (read more...)

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