Actor and singer RICHARD CARSON is soon to appear in Richard Maltby Jr and David Shire’s critically acclaimed revue Closer Than Ever (25–27 April) at The Pheasantry on London’s King’s Road.
In this Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Off-Broadway Alliance Award winning companion to their hit revue Starting Here, Starting Now, Maltby and Shire follow their earlier songs of innocence with 26 wise and witty songs of experience.
Premiering in Massachusetts in 1989, Closer Than Ever soon opened Off-Broadway where it ran for more than 300 performances. In 2010, the show celebrated its 20th anniversary with concurrent shows at Queens Theatre in the Park and the Bristol Riverside Theatre. It returned to Off-Broadway in 2012 and played at London’s Jermyn Street Theatre in 2014.
Richard graduated from the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in 2013. Since then he has appeared as part of the ensemble and first cover Fiyero in Wicked (original cast, UK and Ireland tour), then starred as Prince Charming in Cinderella at the Radlett Centre. He recently made his West End debut in the ensemble and as a widely praised first cover Chris in Miss Saigon.
Musical Theatre Review contributor Aliya Al-Hassan caught up with Richard as he prepared for the new production.
Where did your love of musical theatre come from?
I operated the follow spot for one of the school shows and saw how much fun the performers were having, so it actually started as more of a glorified hobby. Then I gave drama school a go and it all seemed to fall into place as I began to find more and more of a passion for it.
You trained at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. Was musical theatre always what you wanted to focus on?
Yeah, only musical theatre really. I did some plays and Shakespeare at college and I did love them, but my real love is musical theatre. It’s the challenge of telling a story through song as well as acting. Not to say I wouldn’t love to do a play sometime, but right now I’m where I want to be.
How hard did you find it to get roles after finishing your course?
I was very lucky. I was cast in Wicked straight out of college, then joined a panto straight after that, followed by Miss Saigon and now this! I know full well it’s not always that nice, but I have been very fortunate.
As such an iconic musical, how did you feel when you got cast in Miss Saigon?
It was like a dream. It’s such an inspirational show and one I’d love to do again. It’s also intense though, so a year in that show was enough, but I have memories I won’t forget anytime soon!
How did it feel the first time you were called to step in as Chris in Miss Saigon?
I didn’t feel that much pressure actually. It was a part I felt very comfortable playing and I really loved it, so I was more excited than anything. I obviously had some good nerves going on, but I couldn’t wait.
What did you like and dislike most about the part?
I loved the intensity of the part, and how much depth the character had. I had to really dig deep and research all sorts of things to really try and pull off the character. I had to switch off after performances when I played Chris, simply because it can be a really dark story to embody.
You are about to star in Closer Than Ever at the Pheasantry. What attracted you to be part of it?
The music, mostly. It’s a gorgeous score and the show is not performed very often. It is very different to what I have done recently. Further, the intimacy of the show and venue, I am really looking forward to being that close to an audience again.
What is the show about?
It’s about all sorts of things. It’s a ‘musical revue’ that loosely follows characters, but it’s mostly about the major events we are all likely to experience at some points in our lives: marriage, break-ups, relationships, parenthood, friendships – it has a lot that we can all relate to.
How are the rehearsals going?
Great, it sounds amazing. It’s very complex, but I have every confidence it’s going to sound golden on show night.
Closer Than Ever is being performed at The Pheasantry; does a more intimate venue appeal to you?
Yes, it really does. There’s something very refreshing about showing a character to 80 people who can see your face. I love it when every audience member is on the journey with you.
What would your ideal theatrical role be?
I have always said Valjean and, who knows, maybe one day I’ll get that opportunity. However, playing Chris in Miss Saigon full-time would be the dream right now.
What is your favourite musical?
I obviously love Miss Saigon and Les Misérables is another favourite. However, I have a real love for The Hired Man by Howard Goodall. I did the show at Mountview and it is such an incredible piece.
After Closer than Ever, what is next on the horizon for you?
It is a big production and I am really excited about it, but nothing has been announced yet, so my lips are sealed.
* Closer Than Ever has musical direction by Nick Barstow. The show stars Wendy Carr (Princess Ida), Richard Carson (Miss Saigon), Emily Chesterton (Shout! The Mod Musical) and Nicholas Corre (Bar Mitzvah Boy).
Readers may also be interested in:
Starting Here, Starting Now – The Pheasantry – Review
London Festival of Cabaret 2016 – all the details – News