In the crazy world of theatre, it is considered uncommon to be able to see one of your biggest inspirations perform live. It is also considered to be very rare to meet them after the show and express your gratitude for their kindness. Additionally, it is considered even more unusual to be able to organise an interview with said person backstage at the very same theatre in which you first saw their terrific performance.
Fortunately for me, on Tuesday the 21st of October, I went backstage at the Prince Edward Theatre, currently home to Miss Saigon, to meet with Hugh Maynard and discuss life as a West-end star.
Maynard grew up in Torquay, Devon, where a friend suggested that he should audition for the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts.
“I was very fortunate. I had a friend called Megan, and she basically said to me ‘Hugh, you need to get your butt out of Torquay, you can sing far better than any of the guys on the course.’"
“I kind of ignored her for a year almost, and then eventually she dragged me over to London. I auditioned literally one song, 'Something Inside So Strong' by Labi Siffre.”
After showing up with no sheet music, no speech prepared, and nothing to show off his dancing skills, Hugh was very surprised when he was offered a two year scholarship to the school.
“Acting, singing and dancing were kind of the premise of getting into this college and I got in with a two year scholarship. That was the biggest shock to me because I didn’t even think they would offer me a scholarship, I didn’t ask for a scholarship, it was just offered to me.”
“It was a drama course but I had to do the movement side because I didn’t know any basic technique and for that you have to do ballet, even if you’re let’s say acting. That then helps with your posture."
“It wasn’t like I was looking to be a dancer, I was just from Devon, very lazy in my stance, maybe my back wasn’t straight!”
Hugh then proceeded to train at Arts Educational Schools in Chisick for a year, before making his West end debut in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. He went on to play the role of Simon Zealots and Judas, as well as playing the role of Simba in The Lion King.
Then the opportunity arose to audition for Cameron Mackintosh’s touring production of Miss Saigon.
“Miss Saigon I didn’t know too much about but because I knew it was out of my league, I’m too young, John is normally cast in his thirties, I didn’t even want to watch the show. I had, at that time, a personality of what I don’t know won’t affect me!”
“Cameron wanted to see me for Miss Saigon. So me being a bit attitude, said if he wanted to see me for Miss Saigon, then I would like to try to sing Bui Doi my way. What I didn’t want to do – it sounds arrogant, was copy the guy on the CD, I didn’t want to copy the guy before me who had played John, I wanted to do my version of John.”
“A lot of us when we do Musical theatre literally have to step into the shoes of the person that’s moved on from the show.”
Maynard again auditioned with Siffre’s song 'Something Inside So Strong'.
“When you audition they ask you to sing a song that compliments the show that you’re going to do, they always say one pop and one rock and one Musical theatre song. So for me it’s always, well, if everyone’s singing a song from ‘Les Mis’ and ‘Phantom’, the people that are casting are going to fall asleep!”
“I’ve always chosen commercial songs that [the casting directors] recognise but haven’t heard hopefully that day. 'Something Inside So Strong' [is] very much a song that is inspirational, it shows encouragement as well [as] adversity, and Bui Doi is very much in the same ilk.”
After the audition, Sir Cameron offered Hugh the role of John on the spot.
“He literally walked up to me through the stalls, onto the stage, [and said], ’I want you to be my John.’”
The two of them went out for a cup of tea and a coffee afterwards, where Mackintosh spoke to Maynard’s agent on the phone.
“I was still swimming in heaven.”
Ten years later, Hugh is back playing the role in the critically acclaimed revival.
“I was given this opportunity again to come back to Miss Saigon and I couldn’t say no.”
In September 2014, the musical celebrated its 25th anniversary, and Hugh was part of the birthday celebrations including the release of a live recording and a special gala night featuring the original and current cast of the show.
“I mean, it’s one of those things you can only dream about being a part of, but the fact that it was Miss Saigon, to be part of it, regardless of whether it was twelve years old or seventeen years old, I think I would have said yes!"
“Cameron took over three years to cast this particular show, and there are people in the cast representing over 18 nationalities, and so even that in itself is unbelievable. The dynamic is amazing, and I always say you’re only as good as the people you work with, and it’s made my game go up and up and up and up.”
As well as performing eight shows a week, Hugh is currently in the process of recording his debut album, with only a few more tracks left to record. It will be released just in time for Christmas, and is self-titled called ‘Hugh Maynard – Something Inside So Strong’.
“That song is about resilience, it’s a song that’s been with me for many many years, and I hope it does for other people what it’s done for me. You know, inspire.”
Interviewed by Jake Samson
Miss Saigon at the Prince Edward Theatre is currently booking until 25 April, 2015. PAY NO BOOKING FEE for Miss Saigon. Offer valid Monday to Friday performances from 08 September to 18 December.