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Hanson and Ovenden in Marguerite

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 18 April 2008

Alexander Hanson and Julian Ovenden will join Ruthie Henshall in leading the cast of new musical Marguerite, which opens at the Haymarket in May.

The news was announced today at a launch at The Pigalle Club in Piccadilly, where industry guests gathered to see the trio perform excerpts from the show, along with fellow cast members Annalene Beechey, Matt Cross and Simon Thomas.

New musical Marguerite is the third production in Jonathan Kent's year-long Theatre Royal Haymarket season, to follow dramas The Country Wife and The Sea. Based on Alexandre Dumas’s novel La Dame Aux Camélias, it is set in occupied Paris during the Second World War and tells of the dangerous love story between Marguerite (Henshall), who is the beautiful mistress of high ranking SS officer Otto (Hanson), and a young musician half her age, Armand (Ovenden).

The show has music by Oscar-winning composer Michel Legrand, a book by Alan Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg (who together wrote the music and lyrics for Les Misérables, Miss Saigon and Martin Guerre) and Jonathan Kent, who also directs, and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer.

Hanson has most recently been seen in the West End playing another authoritarian figure, that of Captain von Trapp opposite Connie Fisher in The Sound Of Music. His many musical theatre credits in the capital include We Will Rock You, Sunset Boulevard, Aspects Of Love, Candide and A Little Night Music. He has also worked frequently in non-musical drama at the National Theatre, Royal Court and Hampstead.

Speaking at the launch today Hanson told Official London Theatre he first got involved in Marguerite when the creative team held a workshop last year, while he was working on The Sound Of Music. “I didn’t know anything about it – my agent rang and said listen, there’s a workshop of a new musical, do you want to be involved? I said ‘I‘m working every night, I’m doing eight shows a week and I’ve got two teenage kids, no!’ She says, ‘It’s written by Michel Legrand’; I said ‘yes!’”

While Hanson admitted the prospect of working with Legrand could be daunting, he said: “But you’ve got to get in there. If you’ve got the opportunity to work with someone like that, you’ve got to be around and pick his brains. Already it’s been thrilling to watch him work and listen to what he has to say. And it’s a great production team around him, there’s a lot of pedigree here.”

That pedigree extends to his co-star Henshall, who returns to the London stage where her many musical theatre credits include the original cast of Chicago, Boublil and Schönberg’s Miss Saigon, Peggy Sue Got Married, The Women In White and She Loves Me. Though he has never worked with Henshall before, Hanson said he had “admired her from afar” for some time. “Watching her sing those ballads, there’s nobody, nobody, who can sell a song like that. She really is quite special,” he said.

Ovenden’s London theatre credits include Grand Hotel and Merrily We Roll Along at the Donmar Warehouse and A Woman Of No Importance at the Haymarket. Like Hanson, Ovenden took part in the initial workshop for Marguerite. Today he said he was looking forward to starting rehearsals for the full production. “I’m feeling excited, a little nervous because there’s a lot to do, a lot to learn, it’s a huge undertaking, but I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”

Beechey, who plays Annette, has London stage credits including Carousel at the National and Shaftesbury, The Phantom Of The Opera, Les Misérables and Sweeney Todd at the Royal Festival Hall. Cross (Pierrot) has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and last appeared in the West End in Our House at the Cambridge. Thomas (Lucien) has performed frequently at the Open Air, Regent’s Park, and makes his West End debut in Marguerite. Gallagher (Georges) has appeared in The Producers at the Drury Lane, His Dark Materials and Stuff Happens at the National and Martin Guerre at the Prince Edward.

The rest of the cast is: Mark Carroll, Keiron Crook, James Doherty, Siubhan Harrison, Jon-Paul Hevey, Julia Nagle, Duncan Smith, Gay Soper, Phillip Sutton and Lucy Williamson.

Marguerite opens at the Haymarket on 20 May after previews from 7 May and is booking until 1 November.

Jonathan Kent’s production of Edward Bond’s The Sea, which is currently playing at the Haymarket, runs until 19 April. Book em>CB

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