As most of you will be aware, Alfie Boe’s recent absence from Broadway’s Les Mis was due to his hotly anticipated second performance as Jimmy in Classic Quadrophenia, the fully orchestrated version of The Who’s classic album. Since the world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in July to rave reviews, the next and, as it stands, the only, chance to see Alfie in this role was Vienna on 31 October. Many Alfie fans made the trip and one of them was a regular thoughtsofjustafan reviewer, Carole. Here is her fabulous write up of the evening.
I suppose there was always a question in my mind as to how a European audience would respond to Classic Quadrophenia after its premiere at the Royal Albert Hall back in July. Here was the reworking of a rock classic with legendary status being performed to an unknown audience, fronted by a singer whose name is not familiar in Austria. I suspect after Saturday night that the singer’s profile has been raised somewhat and, judging by their reaction, the diehard Who fans have acknowledged that somebody other than Roger Daltrey can also make a damn fine job of the score.
Apart from Alfie, his co-performers were all different from those at the Albert Hall. Drew Sarich, an American now based in Vienna, took on all the roles previously played by Pete Townshend, Billy Idol and Phil Daniels. The orchestra was the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic from Czechoslovakia and the choir from the Wiener (Vienna) Singakadamie. Pete Townshend was sat on a side balcony near the front with Rachel Fuller (who orchestrated the piece) and it must have been intimidating for Alfie, to say the least, having the master watching so intently although there were several appreciative exchanges between them. Pete is clearly Boe’d, you can see the look of disbelief on his and Rachel’s faces when he hits those big notes with such ease. It is such a monumental sing for one person and its so touching so see how in awe they are of each other.
It seemed to take Alfie a couple of songs to settle in, probably more to do with the audience being responsive but polite at that point. He and Drew worked brilliantly together and being right at the front I could see all the nuances in Alfie’s face encouraging and complimenting him. It can’t be easy for somebody new to step in to a piece like CQ especially alongside somebody with a voice as huge as Alfie’s! He was even subtly mouthing Drew’s lines to himself at times, doubt he even knew he was doing it. The two had a fabulous rapport and great energy, Alfie bouncing up and down as if somebody had wound him up. It is always special to hear that voice with a full orchestra and choir and he seemed to be loving the freedom of just being himself again after leaving the confines of his Jean Valjean role behind him for a while.
Love Reign O’er Me has been a feature of Alfie’s live and TV performances since the end of last year so when he appeared after a short break off stage to launch into the final song I realised this could possibly the last time he performs it for a while. Of all his huge repertoire of songs this is arguably surely the one that was made perfectly for that voice and to show it off to its colossal best. I have never heard him do it better. I have no idea where he finds even more to give every time, just as I think it can’t get any better he pulls another herculean performance out of the bag. He was very emotional going into that last extraordinary note, and as the audience rose to their feet before he had finished he dropped his head with his eyes closed and stayed there just going into that bubble, taking it all in. I could see he was struggling to hold it together and as he lifted his head and came back to us his eyes were full of tears.
There was an encore of The Real Me and people came to the front and filled up the aisles, just how Alfie likes it, and was holding his microphone out to the audience to get them to sing back. The conductor Robert Ziegler once again appeared wearing his mod parka which got a fabulous response. Pete Townshend and Rachel then came out onto the stage to take their bows alongside Alfie and Drew and the ovation went on and on. Oh yes, and of course he had to squeeze in a Roger Daltrey style swing of his microphone and arm windmill.
A fantastic night at a stunning venue in the most beautiful city, with Alfie rocking the house and having the time of his life doing it. Vienna loved you Mr B!!
Thanks Carole for that fantastic review – I felt as if I was right there with you.
Classic Quadrophenia is available on CD and DVD:
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