Miss Saigon: Exclusive Interview With Choreographer Geoffrey Garrat

Geoffrey Garrat has worked extensively in Musical Theatre both as a performer and as a choreographer. As a performer, he has appeared in CatsFiddler on the RoofMatadorMr CindersMartin GuerreJoseph and the Amazing Technicolor DreamcoatWest Side Story and Oliver!

He currently works alongside Bob Avian doing additional choreography on Miss Saigon and we popped over to the Prince Edward Theatre to get to know him a little bit more and find out the goss back stage.

What made you want to work on Miss Saigon? 

When I first saw the show at Drury Lane I fell in love with the story and the music. It remained my favourite musical score of all time.

What is it like to work on one of the greatest musicals of all time? 

It was surreal to start with especially working alongside the original creative team. I had so much respect for them and to be part of the new team was incredible. There was a day working with Cameron, Claude Michel and Alain – I will always remember thinking I’m not a chorus boy anymore!

What steps did you take in updating Bob Avian’s original choreography? 

Bob was at my side and together we were able to rework sections - add new ideas and update the choreography. I think performers are now able to achieve more and we pushed them. Our cast was quite remarkable - especially given the vocal demands of the show. We worked with a new set design from the original and much of the ideas come from the staging aspect. Keeping the romance of Kim and Chris to the explosive epic scenes was key in developing how best the set and choreography would work.

Talk us through the process of getting the show on stage every day?

We rely heavily on the in house team. Katy Bryant our Company Manager, Simon Hardwick our Dance Captain and Maria Graciano our Assistant Dance Captain. They work their magic every night in dealing with the tracking for that particular show.

Each performer takes holidays throughout the contract and also accounting for sickness, injuries etc. We have a team of swings who are the backbone of keeping the show on! They are so remarkable and we are so lucky to have such talent. The cast also have understudy rehearsals and are noted during performance.

Jean Pierre Van de Spuy is our Associate Director who is the key figure in making the show deliver its world class level of performance. Having a first rate cast keeps the spirit alive and the story motivated. They do a full company vocal and physical warm up - sometime with a theme! I love it when our Kim’s kick a leg!!

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What goes on behind the scenes during a performance?

As with most big musicals - the off stage traffic is almost as choreographed as the show! With such a big cast and so many set pieces it is a slick operation to technically keep the show running. There are quick changes throughout - especially in ‘Morning of the Dragon’ - where the company have literally seconds to re-enter for a new dance section.

The stage management are responsible for the calling of the show -from cue to cue. We have a lighting operator a sound mixer and their teams. The building has a stage crew who behind the scenes make the show happen. The Musical Director has both the orchestra and a huge cast to conduct. We have our adorable Tams - who are chaperoned each performance. Their role is vital to the story and very dramatic when they are on stage. Katy, our Company Manager, is always on stand by for any injuries that occur - and following procedures if we need to switch a cast member.

Who do you love working with in Miss Saigon? 

I love the music. I love the different dance style. I love the different cultures and bringing the authenticity of the story alive. From lap dancing bar girls to marshal art acrobatics! The eclectic mix is exciting.

What is your favourite scene in Miss Saigon? 

I love ‘American Dream’. Working with Bob Avian was a dream itself. Recreating his wonderful choreography and developing the new staging. We had new elements to make it a show stopper. I think Jon Jon Briones, our ‘Engineer’ is such an expert. His nuance and skill set is world class. I never tire of watching him. He has the audience in the palm of his hand and then erupts into a perverse routine of fantasy and greed. He is a total star -I think anyone in musical theatre would see a master class on stage.

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Describe Miss Saigon in 3 words

Emotional. Epic. Explosive.

You’ve worked on some amazing West End and Broadway shows, is there one show which you dream of working on?

I always wanted to work on “A Chorus Line” - it was my dream when I was a dancer. When Bob tells me stories of how he and Michael Bennett created the show - I wish I could turn back the clocks and be a fly on the wall. I think it was ground breaking and still to this day has a certain nostalgic story for so many performers. I would love to work on “Evita! Some day - it was the first west end show I ever saw. I was completely in awe.

If you could choreograph anyone in the world who would it be? 

I would love to work with Hugh Jackman. I think he is incredible.

There’s a recent trend for films to be made into musicals, which film do you think would be perfect for the West End stage?

I have 2 ideas…”Hocus Pocus” and “Dead Poets Society” (my favourite film!).

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