Last Chance to See Miss Saigon & RentDate: 28 October 1999
Two of the West End's long-running musicals finish their runs this weekend. Both Cameron Mackintosh's Miss Saigon, at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and the Broadway musical Rent, at the Shaftesbury Theatre, will give their final performances on Saturday, 30 October.
Miss Saigon announced its intention to close in June, giving its 10th anniversary celebrations last month added poignancy. Written by Les Miserables composers Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg and directed by Nicholas Hytner, Miss Saigon transplants the Madam Butterfly story to war-torn Vietnam. Cultures and aspirations clash when a local prostitute meets her GI Joe during the 1975 fall of Saigon, rendered on stage with the now infamous helicopter scene.
Miss Saigon became the Drury Lane's longest running show in 1994 when it topped the previous record held by My Fair Lady. It has grossed more than £150 million in ticket sales during its tenancy in London and more than £700 million worldwide with productions in New York, Germany and elsewhere. Saturday evening will be its 4,274th performance in the West End.
The new Irish dance extravaganza Dancing on Dangerous Ground follows Miss Saigon into the Drury Lane for a limited six-week run from 25 November, but the big successor comes in May with Cameron Mackintosh's new musical blockbuster The Witches of Eastwick.
Over at the Shaftesbury, Jonathan Larson's Rent has had a considerably shorter run. The musical arrived with great fanfare straight from Broadway in May 1998. It had been booking to January 2000 but posted early closing notices in September. Also inspired by an opera, Puccini's La Boheme, the musical updates the plot to modern day New York where a community of East End squatters battle to fulfil their aspirations against the reality of rent demands and Aids.
Rent originally opened at the New York Theatre Workshop in February 1996 before moving to Broadway's Nederlander Theater in April of that year. The death of 35-year-old creator and composer Larson, who died of an aortic aneurysm shortly after the final dress rehearsal, transformed the musical into something of a cause celebre amongst New York theatre-goers. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama and to make a clean sweep of the 1996 New York theatre awards, including four Tonys. Rent will be followed at the Shaftesbury by the new musical adaptation of Casper, 'the friendly ghost'.