Actor, singer and musician HUGH MAYNARD made his West End debut in Jesus Christ Superstar (the actor and singer was studying at Arts Ed when he got the call) and has gone on to play Simba in The Lion King as well as performing in the casts of Notre-Dame De Paris, Follies, Dancing in the Streets and Sister Act.
In May 2014 Hugh returned to Miss Saigon to reprise the role of John, ten years after he had first appeared in the show (to date he is the youngest person in the history of the production to play the role). He has toured the UK, Europe and America as the sixth member of Tenors of Rock. The band also performed at the London 2012 Olympics and appeared on X Factor in 2013, reaching judges’ houses with Gary Barlow.
On Wednesday 25 March, he releases his debut solo album, Hugh Maynard – Something Inside So Strong, and he will also be performing at the London Hippodrome on the same day with guest stars Rachelle Ann Go and Kwang-Ho Hong from Miss Saigon.
Tal Fox fires the questions:
What was the motivation for you recording your debut solo album. Is it something you had been thinking about for a while?
I was singing fantastic rock anthems with the Tenors of Rock, but some people were saying they would like to hear me do something of your own. For two years I didn’t act upon it, I didn’t have the confidence that there would be a big enough audience for a whole album by me. When I plucked up the courage, I did it!
Is it something you have been thinking about for a while?
Not me, it was the fans who encouraged me to do it. I had never thought about it until that point. The fans have supported the project and given me that confidence.
Is there a theme to the album?
Yes, there is a theme. It’s about resilience. All the songs on the album are about overcoming different things in life. I didn’t choose the tracks. The songs were chosen by the fans, professionals in the industry and friends and family – so it’s very mixed.
“Something Inside So Strong’, to me, says it all, and it’s something that we all have in us – to overcome our own adversities or challenges in life. ‘I Who Have Nothing’ is about being envious and wanting what other people have, peering through a window rather than going for it. ‘Creep’, for example, is about not fitting in. We all feel like an outsider sometimes. ‘Get Here’ is for all those who been in love or lost a love. It’s a great song, very uplifting.
How did you got about choosing which songs to include?
As I mentioned, the fans chose the majority of the songs, as well as family and professionals in the industry. I wanted ‘Something Inside So Strong’, it is the song that I performed to get into drama school.
How did you narrow down all those suggestions?
I thought ‘Creep’ by Radiohead, that’s not me at all, but I looked at the lyrics and they hit me square in the face. They really say how I feel about life sometimes. I worked with a friend and just cut it down, added a piano, and kept it really simple, but by the time I got to the studio I wanted to give the song some guts and brought in a string section and percussion. So it still has that rock feel about it.
Tell us more about your concert at the Hippodrome, and your special guests?
I’m really looking forward to it now. Everything is all prepped and ready. I started off with a couple of backing singers and now I have a small choir. From Miss Saigon, there are guest stars Rachelle Ann Go and Kwang-Ho Hong. It’s just a great opportunity for the three of us to do something together. Since starting Miss Saigon, we haven’t had time to stop and think. We had two openings, the 25th anniversary, the WhatsOnStage Awards and soon it will be the Oliviers. Now the album is coming out, we can sing a few songs together and it’s a great opportunity for us to share our gifts and our talents.
How would you describe your experience on Miss Saigon? It feels like there is such a sense of community in the cast and the production has been so successful.
I’m on stage with friends, people that I want to spend time with at work but also outside of work. That’s how well we get on with each other. It’s just great that we now get to share a different genre of music as well. When are you going to get to see Rachelle Ann Go, Kwang-Ho Hong and Hugh Maynard outside of Miss Saigon? It really is unique.
What has it been like to reprise the role of John ten years after you first played the role?
I’ve matured emotionally, although people say that I haven’t aged, so I’m very grateful for that! I’ve grown as a person and I believe as an actor as well, so I thoroughly enjoy John’s ability to develop and change. For example, John is horrid is Act I, he’s not a nice guy. Then again, when we look at Act II, John is more passionate and endearing, yet still has that strength of character that he demonstrated previously. I’m not sure I would have been able to portray that before. Director Laurence Connor has allowed the character to be more forthright, more direct.
Why do you think the show is still so popular today?
I’m sure we’d all like to write a hit musical that could last five years, never mind 25. Unfortunately, in my lifetime, there hasn’t been a day when there hasn’t been war, but there also hasn’t been a day without love, and I think Miss Saigon really encompasses that.
I used to think how can you make a musical about war? It didn’t make sense, but Cameron Mackintosh, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil have created a great story and it really works. I think the time has been right for Miss Saigon to return to the West End and the Prince Edward Theatre is the right venue. The show touches everybody. I’m so fortunate every night when we’re taking our bows to a standing ovation, it really shows the appreciation of the work being done onstage.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
There are so many things. Outside of the musical theatre world, I would say mentoring children with sensory disabilities. I partake in music workshops for the hearing and visually impaired which are mostly aimed at children and young adults. When you are inside the theatre industry, it’s such a big shared world, but it’s quite cut off, and so I enjoy sharing what we do in the West End outside of the West End. I’ll bring the West End to your school, to your village or to your town, and share the songs and share what we do.
I think it’s really important to give people a taste of what it is all about. You have to give something back. I’m only here because I’ve been supported by certain people and it would be arrogant of me to say ‘Oh look at me I’m so talented’, because other people will bend over backwards to give me the choice that I am able to make today.
What has been your favourite role you’ve played so far?
I was in a musical called Notre-Dame De Paris, it was at the Dominion theatre about 15 years ago. It’s basically The Hunchback of Notre Dame the musical, but it wasn’t Disney. It was avant-garde in its visuals and the dance, music and costumes were amazing.
I’ve always had an appreciation of dance and the way it tells stories. The effort, style and precision shown by the dancers made me want to up my game. The way the actors, singers and dancers came together made it a great musical. Unfortunately, it didn’t last too long, but it still stands as one of my favourite roles.
What would you like to do ideally after Miss Saigon?
I think I’d like to tour with the album that’s coming out. I know some people want to see me sing who can’t get to London. For shows, I would like to do anything that challenges me, so whether it’s working again with Cameron Mackintosh in one of his productions, or a play, or television drama. I won’t just do a job for the sake of it. If I did that, then I’d feel I had no passion.
If you were on a desert island and you were allowed to see one musical onstage, one musical on film and listen to one song (from any genre), what would you pick?
I’m picturing an island with a stage on it! The Lion King, because it’s about the circle of life, it’s life’s story. For me, it’s really uplifting, and it makes you forget your troubles for three hours, so it’s great entertainment.
For song, ‘Circle of Life’. If it isn’t from a musical, it’s a bit cheesy, but I’m going to go with ‘Something Inside So Strong’. It is one of my favourite songs of all time, and it’s about overcoming adversity. If I’m on a desert island then I’m going to need to get over some things!
* Hugh Maynard performs at the London Hippodrome at 11pm on Wednesday 25 March.
* Hugh Maynard – Something Inside So Strong will be available on Wednesday 25 March at the Prince Edward Theatre, Dress Circle Records and via Hugh Maynard’s official website (www.hugh-maynard.com). A digital version will be available to download on iTunes and Google Play.