Musicals

Over half way through the year and as time counts down to Alfie’s upcoming appearances with Pete Townshend and Billy Idol in Classic Quadrophenia across the pond, we turn to an American fan, Nancy Webb for her choice of six favourite Alfie Boe songs.  I first met Nancy on the Serenata tour of 2014 when she and some fellow US fans joined us for a memorable train ride to Cardiff for the last night of that tour.  Two near misses with missing passengers (both going and returning!) and lots and lots of chat and giggles accompanied by my mum’s mince pies frame the memories of that wonderful trip.  Let’s look at Nancy’s choices:

Nessun Dorma, in Matt Lucas’s kitchen.  Nancy says “This was the first song that came up on Google after I saw Alfie in the 25th Anniversary concert. Alfie’s power stunned me again but the humour and gentle humanity of the man won my heart.”

Addio Sogni Di Gloria.  Nancy says “What can I say. I just love it! Alfie could blow the roof off a building when he sings this one. I voted for it as my favourite of the year in the last contest.”  It was a very worthy winner in 2016!

Stranger in Paradise, Parkinson – Nancy says “Another stunner! He was so young, so handsome and so amazing. Several people have said over the years that this was the performance that made them fans (pre Les Mis days). I already loved his voice, but this made me sit up and pat myself on the back for having excellent taste. He is just great here.”

Amazing Grace (starts 14m 21).  Nancy says the song is”a personal favourite since I was a teenager, but no one had ever sung it the way I wanted to hear it…missing notes, straining to hit the highs, flat etc. When I saw the old video of Alfie fronting for the Fron Male Voice Choir and he started to sing this, I actually had tears in my eyes. No problem hitting the high notes and then going higher….just beautiful. Not to be morbid, but I have asked my daughter to play this at my funeral (many years from now, of course)”.

Rank Stranger – Nancy says “I can not get over the absolute silence in the auditoriums/arenas when he sings this…not a cough or a shuffle, hardly a breath. When he finishes, there is a second more of silence as people come back to earth and then the applause. It is just wonderful!”

Agnus Dei – Nancy says “the crystal clarity/purity of this song makes me catch my breath every time I play it. I have it on his You’ll Never Walk Alone compilation, but did not find out where he recorded it originally until much later. That CD, Eternal Light: A Requiem, is so very beautiful, and Alfie could make an angel cry with happiness.

Thanks Nancy for letting us share your six sensational songs – the thing I love most about this series is enjoying songs and videos from the past, it’s been a while since I saw the one from the days when Alfie supported the Fron Male Voice Choir.

If you would to share your favourite Alfie songs with us, fill in the form!

The latest in our series of Alfie Boe sensational songs comes from Lee Kelly.  Lee first became aware of Alfie shortly after the 25th anniversary Les Mis concert and was spellbound.  She’s since been lucky enough to see him live a few times and met him in New York on 28 February last year. In her words, she was a “quivering wreck”! These are Lee’s choices:

Trust, chosen simply because Lee loves the album.

Wayfaring Stranger – love the fun Alfie’s having in this video!  Lee chose this song because of the “haunting words”.

Tell Me It’s Not True, chosen as “Blood Brothers is my husband’s favourite musical and hearing Alfie sing Tell Me It’s Not True is wonderful”,

Run – Lee chose this as she has “always liked this song and Alfie takes it to another level”.

Bring Him Home, chosen as Lee says “Alfie makes every hair stand on end every time I hear him sing this” – I think we all agree!

Rank Stranger

Thanks for sharing your favourite songs with us Lee.

If you would like to share your favourite Alfie songs with us, please fill in the form!

The summer tour is over but no need to cry because we are in the rather unusual position of having lots to look forward to!  Performances in three countries, a new album, we’re in danger of being rather spoilt in the latter half of 2017.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at six more sensational songs, this time from Karen Rogers.  I first met Karen, very briefly, at a Storyteller album signing in London’s Oxford Street and since then we have run into each other at several concerts, culminating in a memorable evening in Bournemouth last year.  Ball and Boe were the warm up act for an absolutely hilarious evening with our Boe Buddies – how many Alfie Boe fans can you get into a single hotel room was the name of the game!  Here are Karen’s six songs:

A Living Prayer, which appears in this series for the fourth time now.  Karen says “I’m not religious in any shape or form but absolutely love this song. The words, even as a non believer are so very beautiful. The video that accompanies the song is lovely too and adds to the emotion.”

Bring Him Home at the 25th anniversary concert.  Karen says that she chose it because “as Alfie’s signature song how could I not include it? However the reason I chose it was because of the memories it evokes. I never thought I would get to see Alfie, live, in Les Miserables but when he announced he would be reprising the role in New York I knew I had to get there. I went with the lovely Carole Hunt and we saw him 4 times. Each time was as special as the first. The picture in my head of him sat at the barricade with Marius at his side asleep as he sings it brings tears to my mind every time. Very special times.”  We don’t have footage of his stage appearances so I chose this video as the next best thing.

Doctor Jimmy, from Classic Quadrophenia – what a fabulous evening that was.  Karen says “I absolutely love this song for the totally shallow reason that Alfie says the f’ word!!! I know its awful to admit but I do. The raw emotion as he swears is amazing. As the wife of a Who fan who was totally bowled over by Alfie’s performance at the RAH I cannot put into words how special it all was.”

Run – Karen’s choice because “it’s a fabulous song with wonderful words but given the Alfie Boe treatment becomes an all time great anthem.”

It’s Only Love – another song that gets me up and dancing every time!  Karen chose it as she “absolutely adored Alfie on the Storyteller Tour. It is as a Rock God that I adore him the most.His performance of the song as he charged from side of the stage to the other, jumping on the speakers in those tight jeans was sublime.”

O Sole Mio / Now or Never at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  Karen says “again it shows his versatility as he goes from classic to rock and roll. The highlight for me of the Queens Jubilee. Rocking out in his tight black jeans (I do love him in tight jeans!) and lovely black shirt. Doing what no one expected him to do and bringing the house down in the process. Fantastic!”

Thanks Karen for six very different choices – I love seeing the songs people choose and the reasons why.  If you would like to see your six songs here, just fill in the form:

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Come What May with Sophie Evans at Llangollen:

Two years ago, Alfie was performing at several festivals, much as he has just done with Michael Ball, and Come What May was again part of his repertoire, albeit usually as a solo.  In Llangollen though, the song was performed as a duet with Sophie Evans, who was also on the bill for that event; Sophie had also appeared with Alfie at Singleton Park earlier a few weeks previously.

Come What May is of course from Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge, one of my favourite films of all time – who doesn’t love a film that you can sing along to, swoon over Ewan McGregor and then have a good cry at the end?  Alfie has sung this song with a variety of partners over the years, from poll winner Rebecca Newman to, at the other end of the scale, Mel C but the one that sticks in my mind the most is Laura Wright from the Bring Him Home tour:

I’m sure I’m not the only one who loved Alfie and Laura together!

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Alfie Boe and Michael Ball are certainly enjoying a period of unalloyed success with Together.  Fresh from a short summer tour, preceded by a sellout winter tour in 2016 and the platinum success of the album of the same name, Ball and Boe will take the show to Australia in October:

QPAC Concert Hall, Brisbane – 5 October

Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne – 7 October

State Theatre, Sydney – 11 October

AEC Theatre, Adelaide – 14 October

Crown Theatre, Perth – 16 October

 

General tickets go on sale Friday 7 July  – click here.  Meet and greet opportunities will be available as well so this is your chance to get up close and personal!

 

Alfie Boe and Michael Ball last night bid farewell to their very own summer of love at the first night of the 2017 Greenwich Music Festival and as with the other dates, held the audience in the palms of their hands.  The title of this piece is Summer of Love and it’s been a joy to see so much love surrounding this tour of outdoor venues; love for Alfie and Michael from fans and on social media, love from Alfie and Michael for the fans and also the almost epic scale bromance between the two. This may be the first show of this tour that I’ve seen but I’m sure that Alfie and Michael have not missed any opportunity to spread the love and gratitude to fans and each other for the absolutely fantastic year they’ve had.

Although Greenwich was my only show of this tour, I’m so glad that I was able to be there for the last one – last nights are very special and I wasn’t disappointed.  How could I be when my favourite song, Keep Me In Your Heart (come on, you know my favourite line by now!) was included, along with last year’s Best Alfie Boe Live Song, Run.  Of the rest of the changes, I was most impressed by Luck Be A Lady (from one of my favourite old style musicals) and of course the addition of One Day More to the end of the Les Mis medley – just when you think Alfie can’t get any better, he does.  At this rate, I’ll need to research lots more superlatives with which to describe Alfie’s voice – for now, I’ll just say that for me, he was perfection last night.

The song that surprised me the most was the encore of You’ll Never Walk Alone which I have never really felt an emotional connection to.  Last night though, the theme of unity and standing strong through adversity spoke to me and the tears came.  Michael had earlier spoken very movingly about the troubled times we find ourselves in and it strikes me that You’ll Never Walk Alone is the perfect song to reflect our unity and strength – none of us have perfect lives, after all, despite what we say on social media!

Earlier in the day, Alfie and Michael had presented an award at the 02 Silver Clefs in aid of Nordoff Robbins and Alfie, an ambassador for the charity, spoke a few words during his solo slot about their work – click here to find out more about music therapy from Nordoff Robbins.

Now if all this sounds somewhat sombre, the concert did contain the usual amount of humour from these two likely lads, as can be seen from the beginning of A Thousand Years – rear of the year anyone?

Alfie and Michael’s Summer of Love may be over for the time being but it won’t be long until we see them again for Together Again 2017 and before that, Alfie will of course be seen as Jimmy in Classic Quadrophenia (click here for tickets).  Until then, we’ll have to be content to send the boys all our love – we’ve loved these two weeks!

Special thanks to Linda Wellington for taking such fabulous videos for us all to share and to my two reviewers, Cecelia and Barbara.  And I must give a special mention to the Boe Buddies I had the good fortune to spend the Greenwich concert with, particularly Margie who is here from Australia via Paris.

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Tonight is the last concert of the 2017 Together Tour but before we get to that, Alfie and Michael performed at Scarborough in what a local newspaper called biblical conditions – it was very wet!  One of our previous reviewers, Barbara Wren was there:

Singing and dancing in the rain, Alfie and Michael just got on with it and wow, what a concert and evening it was. For me Alfie could sing the phone book and I would be happy, so sitting in the rain was not a problem and clearly I was far from on my own ( I do have to add that there is no one else I would do it for). Bonded together by our love of Alfie and Michael the evening was far from lost and everyone I spoke to absolutely loved the concert, though without doubt one that everyone will never forget.

From the beginning, true professionals Alfie and Michael appeared at the top of the stage at the end of Somewhere with huge smiles and made fun of the driving rain and wind coming at them as they approached the front of the stage. The concert was off to a fabulous start. As the driving rain increased many of the song lyrics took on a whole new meaning. Clearly wishing there was sunshine Over the Rainbow  and Tell Me It’s Not True to name two. Alfie certainly warmed things up with That’s Alright Mama and as the Elvis set ended I have no doubt there would be towels at the ready and warm drinks as they left the stage for the interval.

Seated back for the second half after meeting up with Annie Lloyd and Pat Watterson we chatted with water dripping everywhere. The audience were buzzing, some had left but not many, everyone in the front sections were well up for it which was testimony of their loyalty to Alfie and Michael and respect for all the artists on stage who just got on with it.  The swing set was fabulous, as the guys looked out at the rain which was getting heavier and sang (also giggling) about the Stairway to Paradise, and cuddled up to keep warm through Me and my Shadow  then letting rip with Luck be a Lady  and New York, New York  to the delight of the audience.

Alfie and Michael’s solo slots took some guts as the rain, now very much heavier was driving towards the stage.  Alfie ditched his jacket and gave all he had, working at the front of the stage in the pouring rain as he got the audience to participate in Keep Me in Your Heart which was fabulous, and then leaving us breathless with Run, a song I truly believe, Nobody Does it Better than Alfie.  As Alfie retreated to dry off, Michael took over with his always wonderful, sincere and powerful delivery of Gethsemane and Love Changes Everything, to the audience’s delight. The James Bond Set bringing the concert to an end as always was spectacular.

On behalf of all the fans and everyone who attended last nights concert I would like to thank Alfie, Michael, the orchestra, backing singers and the whole crew for pulling off a brilliant concert in such desperate conditions. It was a wonderful evening despite the monsoon engulfing Scarborough.

 

Thank you Barbara for a wonderful review – although this might be one of the rare occasions when I’m not sure I wanted to be there in the rain and wind!

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Will Barratt has been performing in London’s West End (Jersey Boys, Phantom, War of the Worlds, Producers) for a while now but he became someone to look out for amongst Alfie Boe fans when he understudied Alfie’s Billy Bigelow in ENO’s Carousel; he literally took over from Alfie half way through a show after Alfie came down with an ear infection.  Two more shows the next day followed, both to rave reviews. I interviewed Will after the end of the five week run and although he was quick to point out he had no expectation of performing the role, in the event that he did, said that “it was good to get on for a couple of shows together, like a preview and opening night in two shows”.  Additionally, Will said that although Alfie was sad to have to miss the show, he was “so pleased that I got on – he was dead happy for me”.  If you want to hear Will singing the soliloquy, click here for a pre-show talk and performance at ENO (soliloquy starts at 23m).

As Will’s only role in the production was to understudy Billy, I was keen to find out about the creative process and rehearsal period; how much was he involved?  It turns out that both Will and Molly Lynch, who understudied Katherine Jenkins as Julie, were as fully involved as Alfie and Katherine from day one.  Whoever plays the part, the blocking and direction is the same, it’s the thought processes of the actor that differs.  Will says that “Alfie, Katherine, Molly and I, we all got on, we worked through stuff together…Alfie was also going through the process of figuring out the role, he didn’t know what it was on day one either.  We were all doing it together”.

Now, you might be wondering about the headline of this piece – Confessions of a Justified Sinner.  This is the title of Will’s self penned debut album, released in 2015 and showcases his seemingly effortless talent for singing, playing multiple instruments and song writing.  Of the songs themselves, Will says that “all the songs on this album contain bits of me, my life, history, wants and needs, aches and pains, ups and downs…they are my confessions”.  He leaves it up to us as to whether he is a justified sinner or not!

Being self penned, this album is not what you might expect from a musical theatre performer – there are a few songs that wouldn’t be out of place in a musical but on the whole, the songs are a mix of upbeat, rockier, pop and jazz with a hint of Americana that really get you up and out of your seat.  To me, a great song is one that you instantly sing along to or you can’t sit still to and both the opening track, Give Me Some Time and Demon, towards the end, had me up and dancing straight away.  These two songs, together with Fearless (below), a beautiful ballad and the almost Buble-esque Never Thought, are my favourite songs.  Interestingly, Give Me Some Time and Never Thought are songs originally written when Will was at school, just reworked and rearranged to give a more sophisticated sound.

Will’s fabulous voice handles all these styles with great versatility and is a joy to listen to.

Confessions of a Justified Sinner is available here:

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We’ve done it, we’ve counted down to the 2017 Best Ever Alfie Boe song so let’s take a look at the top ten so far:

10 – Parlami D’amore Mariu

9 – In My Daughter’s Eyes

8 – Wheels of a Dream

7 – Forever Young

6 – Anthem

5 – Addio Sogni Di Gloria

4 – Keep Me In Your Heart

3 – Love Reign O’er Me

2 – Rank Strangers

And so that leaves only one song at the top and it’s no surprise that after two years at number four, Bring Him Home returns to the top:

This was the first time I heard Alfie sing Bring Him Home live.

Bring Him Home, is without question Alfie’s most popular and famous song.  The vast majority of fans who have come to know Alfie since 2010 (myself included) have done so through Les Miserables, Jean Val Jean and Bring Him Home – Alfie’s star really was born at the 25th anniversary concert.  Everything that has come since started on that day and ensures that Alfie will continue to sing Bring Him Home for as long as the demand is there…forever!  Of course the problem with this is I find it really difficult to write anything at all about Bring Him Home.   So, instead of my thoughts, let’s go back to what Alfie said about it in his autobiography:

It is such a spiritual song, it’s so special.  When Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil wrote it they must have been so excited…It is a prayer, it’s actually called The Prayer, it’s not officially called Bring Him Home and I treat it as such every time I sing it.  I pray.  That’s what makes it work.

Interestingly, when I interviewed Alfie for the Club 24601 series in 2015, although he mentioned Bring Him Home as being a great song, he actually picked the Soliloquy as the song with the greatest emotional and vocal range.

Thank you for sending in your suggestions and voting – I love seeing the different songs that make it into the top ten each year.  Enjoy the summer concerts – click here if you haven’t yet got a ticket.

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Stranger in Paradise on Parkinson:

This is of course from Kismet, the much mocked (by Michael Ball and Alfie at least) production at ENO where Alfie and Michael first met.  Now, I happened to watch this performance on Parkinson and liked the song and the singer but that was it – certainly, I didn’t have the same reaction as when first hearing Alfie as Jean Valjean.

Kismet first appeared as a musical in 1953 before making it’s way to London a couple of years later.  Stranger in Paradise is the most famous song from the show, certainly in the UK and in 1955 there were six versions of the song in the UK chart, Tony Bennett being the one to hit the top spot.  Since then, the song has been recorded by more artists than we’ve all had hot dinners but I can’t find one I like better than Alfie.

The summer tour is almost upon us so if you want to review one of the shows (Hampton Court and Greenwich are taken) please fill in the form:

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