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Nunn Vs Mackintosh

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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#1
Posted: 6/30/10 at 6:52am
Trevor Nunn has spoken of feeling “profoundly betrayed” by the 25th anniversary staging of Les Miserables, which is currently on a European tour and arrives at the Barbican in September.

In an incendiary interview with the Daily Telegraph, the veteran director claims that he, his co-director John Caird and designer John Napier, were “kept in the dark” by producer Cameron Mackintosh regarding the re-staged version, which premiered in Cardiff last December.

“It is not a new production. It is a variant production that owes everything that’s good about it to the original production. And everything that’s not so good about it, and is uncomfortable about it, is the work of a group of assistants. Do you gather that there is some unhappiness here?” Nunn told the Telegraph's Jasper Rees.

The main alteration to the anniversary production is that it doesn't require the famous revolving stage. In the interview, published yesterday, Nunn claims that he, Caird and Napier would have “joyously” accepted the challenge of finding “slightly different solutions staging-wise”.

Instead, Mackintosh asked James Powell and Laurence Connor to direct the anniversary production. Powell originally joined Les Mis as a cast member, before becoming a resident director on the show and overseeing its move from the Palace Theatre to its current home the Queen's in 2004. Connor also started out as a cast member before moving into directing, with credits including a re-staged touring version of Miss Saigon.

Nunn goes on, “There is no point in beating about the bush. We are profoundly unhappy and we feel profoundly betrayed and we don’t understand. We seek a meeting. We are not given any explanation. What’s so extraordinary is that, in the year when the 25th anniversary of the original production is being celebrated, the same logo and the same strapline is being used for the new production. So we are also very confused.

“It’s completely bewildering. And the most bewildering thing – and this is not vanity or hubris – is why something inferior has been created when something superior could have been created.”

Mackintosh response

Cameron Mackintosh's full response to his long-time collaborator's criticisms has been acquired by Whatsonstage.com. It reads: “I am saddened by Trevor's inaccurate and ungracious remarks. I am very proud of the 1985 production that I invited Trevor to direct with John Caird. That Les Mis has become an enduring classic around the world is a testament to the work that Trevor and John did as adaptors and directors.

“However, after 25 years, I wished to create a new production that reflected the contemporary appeal of the musical today and it seemed right to engage the energies of a new younger team to do this. I believe that each new generation has to be able to put its own stamp on great material.

“Over 18 months ago and at every subsequent stage we informed Trevor and John Caird and John Napier of our plans. It is wholly untrue that they were in any way 'kept in the dark'. It is bewildering to me that Trevor Nunn who has spent much of his brilliant career reimagining existing material should be questioning the right of others to do so with Les Miserables.”

The row comes as the world's longest-running musical gears up not just for the Barbican return (where it started life as an RSC production in 1985), but also a star-studded anniversary concert at the O2 arena (See News, 2 Jun 2010).

Based on Victor Hugo's classic humanitarian novel set in 19th-century revolutionary France, Les Miserables has a book by Alain Boublil, music by Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. On its 21st birthday in 2006, it surpassed Cats as the West End’s longest-running musical. Globally, it has been seen by over 55 million people in 40 countries and 21 languages.

Princeton2
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#2
Posted: 6/30/10 at 6:55am
Who knows the truth, my bet is Nunn is possibly milking it a bit. But he does have a valid point over the use of the logo etc, it is a new production so it is misleading to use the original productions artwork.

Ive yet to see the tour, but from what I have heard from friends who have it on the whole doesnt improve on the original (except the use of projections)and there are some poor casting choices (Fantine, Marius and Eponine)
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#2
Posted: 6/30/10 at 7:56am
I personally love the tour, but I also love the original production, and take them both as seperate productions.

Both are good in their own right, and Trevor Nunn has no right to say that the new production is inferior. I believe he is being bitter and over-dramatic for silly reasons.

His production was, is, and always will be THE definitive production of Les Misérables, whether people's personal favourite or not (it happens to be my favourite.)

And as for the logo, it wasn't exactly their's to start with. It is used universally, and is simply LES MISÉRABLES, that's all there is to it.
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#3
Posted: 6/30/10 at 9:51am
Nunn is absolutely right - I'm sure not everyone agrees on this, but I think the vast majority of what's good about Les Mis and what we associate with the show now came from the work he and John Caird did as opposed to Boublil and Schonberg. As a piece of musical theatre writing it's really nothing special IMHO; the RSC production made it look like something far, far better than it actually was. Yes, Sir Trev does sound quite bitter about it, but I think he has every right to be!
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#4
Posted: 6/30/10 at 9:53am
Cameroon Mackintosh owns the rights to Les Miserable, so he can do what he wants with it; maybe he has a good point that a younger contemporary feel might have improved the show for this day and age. I have not seen the revised show, but I will when it comes to the Barbican, so reserve judgement, but I will be surprised if it betters the original.

This doesn't take anything away from the original which Trevor Nunn and John Caird have both put there stamp on the show and it still stands up to scrutiny 25 years later as one of the greatest and biggest musical in the world, which is no mean feat.
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#5
Posted: 6/30/10 at 9:59am
Well, okay, let's concede that Sir Trev is responsible for all that's best in the original production - but does he think he owns the show? Is there really no room for fresh thinking? I can't recall another director getting into a turf war over changes to his original work. Talk about hubris.
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#6
Posted: 6/30/10 at 10:05am
^ I don't think he'd feel so strongly about it if it genuinely was a brand new production, a completely new take on the show. Well, maybe he would, but it wouldn't be justified if that was the case. I think the problem he has with the new tour is that it takes most of what was good about the original, dresses it up a bit differently and then claims originality without crediting the original creators (which Nunn and Caird were, really, as much as the writers).

I think he's got a very valid point here, but he (or possibly the writer of the article) didn't make it very tactfully.

I can't recall another director getting into a turf war over changes to his original work.

Arthur Laurents and La Cage spring to mind! Not a comparison Sir Trev would be particularly happy with, I'm sure... Nunn Vs Mackintosh
Updated On: 6/30/10 at 10:05 AM
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#7
Posted: 6/30/10 at 10:07am
Yes, Arthur Laurents certainly - thanks for the reminder - but he is the creator of his shows, not just the director. Gives him a bit more of an excuse.
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#8
Posted: 6/30/10 at 10:36am
I wonder if any of Nunn's dissatisfaction stems from his loss of royalties, which I imagine he will still be receiving from the original West End production. Equally this would also apply to Caird and Napier.

However by restaging and calling it a 'new' production, they may be contractually omitted from receiving royalties.

The logo and other original art work associated with the production can and will be used by whomever owns the copyright to it and I would imagine that this is Mackintosh.

Nunn's remarks appear to be sour grapes and disengenuous to Mackintosh who has helped to promote this show at a time when the critics panned it and subsequently made it the global hit it has become.
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#9
Posted: 6/30/10 at 10:59am
I don't understand what parts of the new production are supposedly the original with minor changes. I saw none of this...
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#10
Posted: 6/30/10 at 11:16am
The comparison with Laurents is not helpful. Firstly, Laurents is notoriously spiteful whereas Trevor Nunn has a reputation as a far more generous collaborator.

Secondly, one must remember the vital creative role the original director often plays in the shaping of a new work. Nick Hytner saved a shambolic mess and turned it into the hit Miss Saigon. Jerome Robbins and Hal prince are still credited as the original directors of shows because they were so central to the final text.

I believe Nunn and Caird in their rehearsal process were central to the show that was produced. So the new production leans on all their work before it even makes the odd design change or minor blocking variation. There is little difference of characterisation in any of the major roles. The setting is only subtly different from the original. So clearly Caird and Nunn still have a huge input in the piece.

But finally, whilst the original production is still running, it seems the height of discourtesy for Cameron to start this "rival" production- purely for his own vainglorious ends. It doesn't matter if he owns the rights. It is still shabby and rude. It's like introducing your family to your next husband when your current one is still in the room.
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#11
Posted: 6/30/10 at 11:19am
No it's not.
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#12
Posted: 6/30/10 at 11:22am
It is, I agree with you Dev.
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#13
Posted: 6/30/10 at 12:17pm
As do I.

The comparison with Laurents is not helpful. Firstly, Laurents is notoriously spiteful whereas Trevor Nunn has a reputation as a far more generous collaborator.

I wasn't being serious! Nunn Vs Mackintosh Nunn is a great director who has a very valid point here; Laurents is just upset that one of "his" shows can survive (or even be improved) without the elements he contributed originally. And the new La Cage is a genuinely new and different take on the material, and wasn't done in competition with the original. So I agree it's a silly comparison - I was just pointing out that Nunn isn't the only director to have spoken out about this sort of thing.
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#14
Posted: 6/30/10 at 1:58pm
Owning the rights doesn't necessarily make it right.
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#15
Posted: 6/30/10 at 3:01pm
The logo has nothing to do with anything, IMO. That Cosette image is used all over the world, whether in big restagings of the London version or a rep theatre's own version or even for the schools version. LES MIS in Outer Mongolia or whatever has nothing to do with Nunn/Caird's direction if you ask me.

And this new production doesn't exist to screw anyone out of royalties; it exists because you can't take that bloody great Napier set out on tour. Can you imagine fitting that giant set into the Lowry, or Norwich? Think of all the theatres in America they can fit it into now!

Plus... Nunn and Caird still get a credit on this new version in the programme for their work on adapting the show, and may even get a royalty for their contribution in creating and shaping it for all we know. Nunn never says he's being screwed out of money in the article.
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#16
Posted: 6/30/10 at 5:42pm
The original production has toured to dozens of theatres across America for many years playing relatively short periods in some theatres ( a couple of weeks) I think they used a smaller version of the set but still the original production. It isn't that big a set and can be scaled down. It fits onto The Queen's stage, which is smaller than the stages in many regional venues in the US and here.
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#17
Posted: 7/4/10 at 12:15pm
Based on what I've read of the new production, it seems it's very different in appearance, using projections and a literal, naturalistic approach to setting, as opposed to the original production's simpler use of furniture and large props in denoting general location. I haven't seen the new production myself so can't comment on details in the direction.

I do know the show's 3rd national touring production was one of the most portable and easy to set up and break down, large scale shows ever to tour the U.S. I've seen it on tour and on Broadway at the Imperial numerous times and the two productions were identical in scale and appearance. If anything was scaled down, it was minor because I never noticed major differences.

The tour traveled in only 8 trucks and was erected and ready to go in less than a day and broken down in a matter of hours. The stage deck was expandable to fit larger, 2,000-seat theatres and smaller ones, played venues as intimate as the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert.

Keithp is correct in that it would typically play week-long engagements in smaller cities and the set would fit just about anywhere if they were to scale it down. But if Mackintosh wants to launch a whole new version, that's fine. I prefer the original but he had no business replacing the original orchestrations with far inferior ones. Especially 25 years later, suddenly changing the sound we have grown to know and love is just wrong. It doesn't even feel like the same show anymore in certain parts.

And plain common sense tells me that if you're going to celebrate and honor a production's 25 year anniversary, you don't do so by creating a new production that strives to be as different as possible from the one reaching the milestone.
Recreation of original John Cameron orchestration to "On My Own" by yours truly. Click player below to hear.
Updated On: 7/4/10 at 12:15 PM
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#18
Posted: 7/4/10 at 12:55pm
Trevor seems to think that all that was required was to find a way to make the set portable, but I think Cameron genuinely wanted a fresh take on things, so it makes sense to get some younger people involved. Whether or not you like those changes is an entirely different debate.

I like most of the things they've done with the tour, but one of the main things that has made it seem "better" than the West End version is that they've got a stronger cast. What criticism of the tour I've seen has come almost exclusively from people who expected the tour to be an inferior version who resented the attention it was getting before they had the chance to come up with proper reasons for not liking it.
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#19
Posted: 7/5/10 at 3:57am
Nah, I was actually excited about it for quite some time, until I saw the way it was being marketed. And then I heard the changes to the orchestration and was appalled at how awful some of them were, but as you say, it's subjective. I assure you though, that nobody is thinking up petty reasons to dislike it. I WANT to like it and I've tried. I love this musical and it's natural to want to just enjoy it and move on. But I feel some of the changes have degraded the show. I can't just pretend it's of the same caliber (orchs, that is). Far from it. But if you've liked the changes, that's great. I wish I could see it through your eyes when it comes here.
Recreation of original John Cameron orchestration to "On My Own" by yours truly. Click player below to hear.
Updated On: 7/5/10 at 03:57 AM
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#20
Posted: 7/5/10 at 10:33am
Boys, Toys and prams!
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#21
Posted: 7/5/10 at 11:22pm
My Oh My, so... have you seen the UK Tour in person? or just from clips on youtube?
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Nunn Vs Mackintosh#22
Posted: 7/6/10 at 1:21am
Have to be honest I'm not a huge Trevor Nunn fan. The twirling stage of Les Miz made me a bit nauseous... The lack of direction in Woman in White (where up until it closed in NY and London they were still changing the ending) was ridiculous... Even Sunset Boulevard, one of my favorites, when I saw the 2nd US Tour I was impressed by this substantially smaller production that in some ways was more effective than the original Broadway production (in no small part due to the direction)

Sir Trevor sounds pretty pathetic in this whining fest. One has to wonder if the New Aspects of Love production will feature the breaking open of the rear wall to create the Pyrennes (btw - that's another example - the Robin Phillips US Tour with minimalist sets was much more effective than the Broadway production)