A whole host of musicals came to the West End last year, but one of the biggest hits undoubtedly has to have been the Broadway transfer of Once. The award-winning musical, based on the 2007 film of the same name, opened at the Phoenix Theatre on 9th April 2013 (previews from 16th March) and won over the West End audience as well as gaining overwhelmingly positive reviews from theatre critics. The Broadway production earned a slew of awards, including ‘Best Musical’ at the Tony Awards, and the West End production may be set to follow suit after being nominated in six categories in the 2014 Olivier Awards.
The original London company was led by Zrinka Cvitesic (Girl) and Declan Bennett (Guy), but the show has just undergone its first cast change, which saw Arthur Darvill replace Bennett in the lead role. The cast of Once are unique in the West End in that they also serve as the orchestra, musically accompanying themselves onstage. Requiring highly talented and accomplished performers, the show’s current crop of stars are proving they certainly have what it takes… including Miria Parvin, who appears here as the featured ensemble member for this week’s edition of In Profile.
Miria Parvin originates from Finland and came to the UK after winning a scholarship to train at one of London’s most highly-regarded performing arts schools. Since then, she has played leading roles in four touring musicals and her professional stage career has now led her to the West End with Once.
Born Mirja Parviainen, the Finnish actress first fell in love with the stage at just four years of age while she and her family were living in the United States. She spent one year in the US, during which time she not only learnt to speak English, but also decided the stage was the place for her. Following her return to Finland, the first blocks were laid to pave the way as she sings in the National Opera Chorus and dances at the Raatikko Dance School, later attending the Vaskivuori Upper Secondary School where she had the opportunity to study Dance and Music and performed with the choir. She also led a production of Snow White in the title role as a young actress with Tikkurila Theatre in Vantaa.
After leaving school she applied to Helsinki’s Theatre Academy, but performance anxiety led her to withdraw from the audition process, despite having been successful in the first rounds. With the support of her sister, she instead decided to apply to several performing arts schools in the UK, sending in video applications that highlighted her singing/dancing/acting abilities. Interest peaked, she was subsequently invited to come here for further auditions and was eventually accepted into the Guildhall School of Acting (GSA). The Surrey-based institution is highly renowned within the theatre industry and has turned out many great stars of the stage, including such talented performers as Caroline Sheen, Michael Ball, Celia Imrie, Daniel Boys, Dianne Pilkington and Willemijn Verkaik.
She graduated with honours from GSA and immediately found representation, now going under the stage name of Miria Parvin. Her first professional job post-graduation came in the form of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express. She was cast in the lead female role of ‘new girl’ Pearl in the UK touring production, whizzing her way around the country on roller skates as the observation carriage and love interest of steam engine Rusty. That was followed up with a principal role in another UK Tour, this time playing Reverend’s daughter Ariel in classic musical Footloose. She travelled with the touring production, which starred Lyn Paul, for six months before they transferred to the Playhouse Theatre for a West End run.
After a short resting period, she found her third leading role. She was cast as Sarah in a revival of Our House, the Olivier Award-winning musical based on the songs of 80’s pop group Madness. The UK touring production was launched in Birmingham and starred Chris Carwell as Joe Casey opposite Parvin as the ‘girl of his dreams’, Sarah. Then it was on to another jukebox-type musical, although this time she would go outside of the UK as she joined the international touring production of the West End’s smash hit musical, Mamma Mia! She made her premiere as bride-to-be Sophie Sheridan at the Malmo Arena in Sweden to great acclaim and enjoyed every moment of performing the famed songs of ABBA while on tour, having grown up listening to the beloved pop foursome.
Other theatre credits include The Magic Flute (Finnish Tour) and several productions with the Finnish National Opera. She has also performed on television as a soloist in the BBC’s The Royal Memorial Concert and has done numerous voiceover work for Finnish Disney Studios, including such films as Mermaids and Peter Pan.
She visited such places as Vienna, Milan, Florence, Copenhagen and Kuala Lumpur with Mamma Mia! but is now back in London to perform in another hit West End show. As part of the original London company, she has been with Once since that first performance at the Phoenix Theatre last year. She appears in the role of the Ex-Girlfriend and is 1st cover Reza, as well as also playing the violin onstage to great proficiency, having been practicing the instrument since she was very young. At the heart of Once is a love and appreciation of musical talent, which is why Miria Parvin is perfectly cast in the production. A wonderful musical talent herself, the Finnish actress has been performing professionally for eight years now and has made some great accomplishments in her career in that time, with still so much more to give.
By Julie Robinson @missjulie25
Page updated 18th October 2014