Les Mis

All posts tagged Les Mis

Recently returned from Cape Town where he created the role of John Crichton-Stuart in the new musical Tiger Bay, a role written especially for him no less, John Owen-Jones tomorrow releases a compilation album, Bring Him Home.  A mix of musical theatre songs taken from three previous albums,  John Owen-Jones (2009, Unmasked (2012) and Rise (2015), there are also three new tracks to delight fans: Maria, Why God Why and Suddenly.  In addition to this, John is soon to embark on a short solo tour of Wales – click here for dates and venues.  All in all, with Tiger Bay moving to Cardiff in November and a trip stateside in September, 2017 is shaping up to be a busy year for John.

Given his super busy schedule, it was a delight to catch up with John over coffee this week to talk about the new album although of course, you’ll forgive us if we strayed onto all things Les Mis.  Like Alfie, it was through Les Mis that I first became aware of John – the Valjean Quartet at the 25th concert to be precise.  Talking about that incredible moment where Alfie first starts singing, John says that “being in the room when we first rehearsed that and everyone’s hair was blow off when Alfie hit that top note”.  Lovely to hear that the other Valjean’s thought that as it’s the same for most of us too.  As for Alfie, Les Mis is the show in which John first rose to prominence; at 26 he was the youngest actor to play Valjean.  He says of this time on Broadway that “I was very lucky at 26 that I had the chance to play Jean Valjean and I grabbed it with both hands”.   Since then he has returned to the role several times, most recently on Broadway again and for a short run in Dubai and doesn’t rule out another stint in the future “if the opportunity is there again, why not?”

Of the three new tracks on Bring Him Home, one is related to Les Mis and that is Suddenly, the song that was added to the movie version and as yet, has not been recorded by many people.  As such, it sounds fresh and exciting which is no mean feat for a song from a thirty year old musical that everyone is familiar with.  In understated style, John calls the song ” a nice little tune” and it fits in perfectly with the theme of this album which draws heavily on John’s roles with both Les Mis and Phantom, both of which are huge in Japan.  John has played several sell out shows there and in once concert last year, John says that the audience refused to leave the auditorium until he came back for a further encore – the musical director came back on stage without shoes and socks!

As for the other new tracks, Maria was chosen as West Side Story was the first show in which John was ever on stage and is a song he’s always wanted to record as a result.  Apparently it took him this long to actually do it because his mum’s not keen on the song but “she can skip that one”.  Great choice of song – despite there being many versions of this song out there, John’s acting ability enables him to bring an emotional depth that is not always heard.  Similarly personal, Why God Why from Miss Saigon was the song John performed at his audition for drama school and is a song that he has performed live for a long time.

As mentioned earlier, next week sees John embark on a short solo tour of Wales and he says that the set list will consist of mainly musical theatre songs with one or two others in the mix as well.  A number of local choirs will be joining John, not to mention Rhys Meirion in Rhyl and other guest artists.  Sounds fantastic!

Bring Him Home is released on Sain Records on 9 June and is available here:

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For one night only, Alfie Boe and Michael Ball played to a US audience in New York City.  Our NYC reporter, Roberta Kappus was on hand and kindly sent this review:

After a four and a half month hiatus from the Together tour, Alfie Boe joined Michael Ball last night for the only US performance of this UK sellout show. Alfie’s return to the stage was as though he had never left. It was a show and performance worthy of Broadway. The singing was priceless, the dancing precisely synchronised  and the overall evening just amazing.

Alfie’s versatility and talent were on display throughout the show from the opening song of Somewhere to the closing song of New York, New York which was greatly appreciated by the New Yorkers in the audience and by the sound of the applause by many others. In between there was a full array of songs running from the classic Les Mis medley to Elvis Presley’s Suspicious Minds, a personal favourite, to Love Reign O’er Me, another favourite.  Two more additions to the UK set list were Anthem and Luck Be A Lady Tonight.  All were brilliant additions – if some songs were dropped I could not name them. Through the magic of Alfie’s voice I was just transported from one enthralling song to another during this incredible evening. There were numerous standing ovations, amongst them Anthem, Love Reign O’er Me, and the Les Mis medley.

Throughout the show Alfie was totally relaxed, very comfortable in his role as singer and entertainer and very much enjoying himself. Towards the beginning of Love Reign O’er Me there was a problem with the piano which Alfie noticed instantly. As technicians rushed onto the stage Alfie very comfortably went into several minutes of comedic ad libbing. Alfie was so successful in distracting the audience that several people around me thought it was part of the act. To me it was another example of Alfie’s assurance as an entertainer in capturing and holding the audience’s attention regardless of circumstances.

Anyone who had not previously seen this show would not have noticed that some of the comedic moments had been dropped. However the poor woman leaving for the ladies’ room was spotted and asked why she had not gone before the show by Alfie.  Alfie’s trouble mounting the chair and Michael’s assistance in the first act was replaced by Alfie simply sliding off a stool. However Michael’s praise of Alfie had Alfie running back onto the stage to give Michael a big kiss on the cheek to much laughter.

The show took place just 24 hours after the Manchester attack and before the show began, a moment of silence was observed.  Another sombre moment was acknowledged during the Bond medley when Sir Roger Moore’s (who passed away yesterday) photo was shown.

It was truly lovely to have Alfie in New York again. He more than lived up to the expectations I had from seeing Together in the UK. I was not alone as the audience showed its appreciation through numerous standing ovations. For me Alfie’s versatility as a singer, actor and entertainer was highlighted by the fact that I had just seen him ten days ago in English National Opera’s Carousel. I am still overwhelmed by the transition I witnessed from Billy Bigelow to Alfie Boe. What an evening to remember. Thank you, Alfie Boe and please come back.

Thank you Roberta for a truly wonderful review – New York, New York was the perfect song to end with.

Together is available here:

Click here to buy tickets for their Summer and Winter UK tour dates.

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Less than a month to go until American fans get the chance to see Alfie Boe and Michael Ball live in concert for one night only! The UK’s biggest selling artists of 2016, who scored the Christmas number one album no less, are appearing at the New York City Center on May 23 for one night only – tickets are still available, albeit going fast, so click here to ensure you don’t miss out.  Introduce a friend to the music of Ball and Boe – get two tickets and you get a copy of Together thrown in!

The duo have many US fans and are thrilled to have the opportunity to perform songs from Together – who knows, they might sing something that features on the next album! Alfie in particular, has ‘test driven’ a number of songs before recording in recent years.

So why New York you might ask.  One answer might be that both Michael and Alfie have appeared on Broadway and are well known by audiences there; furthermore, their chart topping album, Together, was recorded there last year. Alfie first appeared on Broadway way back in 2002 as Rodolfo in Baz Luhrman’s La Boheme; at the time, an operatic career beckoned and was duly embarked upon for the next few years before the life changing 25th anniversary concert of Les Mis came along.  It was Les Mis that brought Alfie back to Broadway in 2015, taking over from fellow Les Mis 25th star Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean for a five month run – he handed over to John Owen-Jones who was part of the Valjean quartet at Les Mis 25.  Following on from that, Alfie went into a short stint in Finding Neverland.

Michael’s first Broadway role was in 1990 when he originated Alex in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love (he also originated the role in London).   Then came a break of fifteen years whilst concert, TV and UK based theatre work took precedence although when he did return, in 2005, it was to two productions in quick succession – the first was for New York City Opera, Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience.  The role that took him back to a Broadway musical was Count Fosco in The Woman in White, again for Andrew Lloyd Webber.

For two such amazing voices, the set list for this concert could be endless, such is the variety of their repertoire but I would suggest that two songs guaranteed to make the final list are their most famous songs and ones that have been sung at almost every concert the pair have ever given: Bring Him Home and Love Changes Everything.

Bring Him Home as part of Les Mis Medley  – first night of the UK tour 2016:

Love Changes Everything:

If you’re looking to make the concert that extra bit more special, VIP meet and greet tickets are available too – click here.

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Welcome to the third in thoughtsofjustafan’s occasional series, Alfie Boe’s Six Sensational Songs.  So far, you’ve seen my pick and that of Betty Valentine and now it’s the turn of Cathy Haley, an Alfie fan who has been with this blog almost since it started!  Here, Cathy tell us how she came to be Boe’d:

I started following Alfie in the spring of 2011. Like most of his North American fans, I saw him on PBS. It was a repeat broadcast of the 25th Les Mis concert and I had always been a huge Les Mis fan. We had seen the show twice with Michael Burgess and the CD with the original cast was played a lot in our house. So, I watched parts of the PBS broadcast and was taken with the fact that the JVJ was being played by someone who must be an opera singer. I looked him up the next day and was smitten. I spent a lot of time listening to radio interviews with him and watching YouTube. I laugh about it because I haven’t been a fan like that of anyone since I loved the Beatles in the early 60’s. I saw him live in Toronto 2012 which was the last stop on his North American tour during the tail end of a hurricane.
Last year, I travelled to NYC to see him on Broadway in Les Mis. As for the songs I chose, they are combinations of his power and his ability to sing softly with beauty. Most of them are very romantic.

Thanks Cathy – a lot of us start our ‘how we found Alfie’ stories with Les Mis!

Here are Cathy’s six songs:

Wheels of a Dream, chosen because “is the perfect vehicle for his voice since it really builds to a crescendo.”

Fratello Sole, Sorella Luna, chosen as “it has a lovely melody and is a folk song that has been given a classical treatment. Alfie’s voice is crystalline in the recording and not as deep as his present voice.”

Addio Sogni Di Gloria, chosen “again this has a great melody and the lows and highs that highlight his singing”.

Song to the Siren, from Alfie, and in recorded form, a duet with Robert Plant, long a musical idol for Alfie.  Cathy says ” I heard him sing it live in Toronto in 2012. He started off-stage with it and it was eerily beautiful.”

Parlami D’Amore Mariu, from La Passione.  This video shows the beauty of Alfie’s voice but also his cheeky sense of humour!

My Heart is Yours, from Serenata, chosen, in part, because ” it’s a romantic ballad and shows that he doesn’t have to always power out a song. I think that my favourites always have a melody that I am taken with. I am a huge classical fan and like any thing he sings of that genre”.

Thank you Cathy for sharing your Six Sensational Songs with us – so far, we have had only one song, Fratello Sole, Sorella Luna, chosen by two people, although Cathy did mention that were she permitted a seventh song, You Are My Heart’s Delight is pretty near perfect.

If you would like to see your six songs featured, fill in the form below:

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The anticipation for US fans is over – I’m thrilled to be able to tell you that Alfie and Michael will bring their Ball and Boe Together show to the New York City Center venue for one night only – May 23 2017! Tickets available here!

Their album Together was the top selling UK release of 2016 and went on to become the Christmas Number 1 and has recently returned to the top ten of the UK chart. Together is a compilation of musical theatre and popular classics including a Les Miserables medley, Somewhere, Music of the Night, When You Wish Upon a Star, You’ll Never Walk Alone, Speak Softly Love and For Once in My Life.

Here they are on the UK tour last year:

Buy two tickets to the show – click here – and you’ll get a copy of the album included! The album was recorded in New York last year and you might see some NYC locations in the official video!

 

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Another Saturday night, another city, this time Sheffield, another concert and another guest review, this time from Joan Rowe.

What more is there to say about this wonderful pair which has not already been said?  I have been privileged  to see Alfie and Michael once each before but nothing could prepare you for what we experienced at the Sheffield City Hall last night – my ears are still ringing!  There was less banter I think than clips of other concerts I have seen but that may be because this was a slightly different audience and if I may use the term the venue is a little more intimate having only 2000 seats.
We were amazed at the power of Alfie’s voice singing Love Reign O’er Me and then on to the absolute sweetness of Bring Him Home. We were then hurled into the seduction of Michael and the anguish of Gethsemane.
These two gentleman have such a rapport between them it comes across beautifully.  Alfie and Michael made it to the stage door but only briefly; Michael explaining they had a long journey to Bournemouth.  I will leave the last word to Michael: Alfie has a voice that would make angels weep.  Every one of us last night would agree.

We can never get enough of Alfie singing Bring Him Home and to hear Michael singing Empty Chairs is an experience everyone should enjoy so thanks to Linda W for sharing:

Thanks Joan for that review.

If you would like to send a message to Alfie and Michael to be given in a card at the end of the tour, click here!

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Or, to be precise, at number two!  Yes, in the first week of release, Alfie Boe and Michael Ball are Together celebrating entering the UK album chart at number two, just behind Robbie Williams.

togethr-charts

Fantastic – well done Alfie and Michael…and to all the fans who have bought the album!  If you haven’t yet, it’s available here:

together-album-cover

My favourite track is A Thousand Years which I’m happy to say is sung on their current tour (click here for dates).  However, a close second is the Les Mis Medley and here it is from the first night of the tour in Cardiff (thanks to Linda W for sharing):

What’s your favourite track on Together?  Comment and tell me!

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He did it and so did all of you who voted for Alfie to win Favourite Replacement in the Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards!

Way to go Alfie and fans!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Of course, the award is for his role as Jean Valjean in Les Mis and so here is Alfie singing his most famous song:

To see more about the winners of the awards, click here although it won’t surprise anyone that Hamilton was a big winner.

Don’t forget to enter the competition to win 3 signed Finding Neverland playbills – competition closes tomorrow:

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He made the shortlist!  Just a couple of days ago we voted in the nominations round of the Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards.  Alfie was nominated as Favourite Replacement for both Les Mis and Finding Neverland and he made the shortlist for Les Mis.  Voting is now open to choose the winner so click here and vote!  You can also vote for Les Mis as Favourite Long Running Show if you want.

This video from MoTab is now getting on for 2 million views!

It’s been quite a week for Alfie: announced for the Memorial Day concert on 29 May, making the shortlist for the Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards and it was also announced that he’ll be appearing on the Kathie Lee and Hoda segment of the Today Show on 9 May.  If you remember, Alfie sang Bring Him Home on this show in November 2015 and fans were hopeful that a return appearance would be called for.

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That was the question answered by a few people, Alfie amongst them, in today’s edition of BBC Radio 4’s Soul Music (click here to listen).

Bring Him Home is Alfie’s most famous song and also the most famous song to come out of the show for which it was written, Les Miserables.  Unsurprisingly, it was voted as Alfie Boe’s Best Ever Song by fans in 2014 and is the one song which is always heard at an Alfie concert (short guest appearances excluded).  Alfie himself says that he’d probably be lynched if he ever left it out and has been known to joke at concerts that “you can all go home now, that’s what you came for, isn’t it?” straight after singing the song.

Being an Alfie fan it’s all too easy to forget that Bring Him Home was actually written for someone, not simply for the show.  Of course, I’m talking about Colm Wilkinson and one of the most interesting parts of the programme for me was an Oxford College music director talking about how the power of the tenor voice is contained in the song, producing such an emotional response in the listener; we are aware that the voice could soar into the rafters but doesn’t.  The power is in the restraint and of course the words which perfectly capture the feeling of a prayer – the song is referred to as The Prayer in the show.  The lyricist, Herbert Kretzmer, interviewed for the programme, said that on the face of it, it could be a difficult song to write as an atheist but wasn’t as he did not need to believe in God, just in Jean Valjean’s belief in God.

Alfie was one of several people interviewed for the programme and his contribution was short and right at the beginning.  He talked movingly about how much the song means to him professionally and personally and how much he has gained by his association with it but the interesting thing was the challenge of getting the words right; get that right and the tune almost comes along by itself.  Being vocally tired when singing such an emotionally charged song means that the song sounds different, “gives it a different colour”.  I’ve heard Alfie sing this song many times in concert and each time has been different.  Different but wonderful every time.

The other contributors were divided into two groups: music professionals (Rebecca Caine, Herbert Kretzmer and Jeremy  Summer, music director at St. Peters, Oxford) and people who had turned to Bring Him Home in times of need and bereavement.  Becky Douglas was one of the latter and listening to her talk about her daughter, Amber was painful but also, ultimately uplifting; out of the darkest time of her life had come joy and purpose and meaning.  There was no doubt that Bring Him Home was a crucial part of Becky’s relationship to her daughter and also to her subsequent charity work.  Maybe the fact that I’m also a parent meant that Becky’s story spoke to me so directly and I think that is also the reason that I found Rebecca Caine speaking about the song so moving as well.  Specifically, hearing her talk about not being a parent was intensely moving.  As may be expected with a song that is often associated with loss and funerals, the programme included someone who had sung Bring Him Home at a funeral.  Frank Pearson, secretary of the Greater Manchester Police Male Voice Choir, spoke with grace and clarity about singing such an evocative and emotional song at the funeral of PC Dave Phillips, killed in Liverpool last year.  PC Phillips was a Les Mis fan apparently and it was entirely fitting that he featured on Soul Music.

Lest you fear that the programme was unremittingly sad, let me put your mind as rest by saying that it was, as I said earlier, mainly uplifting.  Listening to others talk about the power of music and the mechanics of the song itself felt like a spiritual process, whatever spiritual means to you.

So, listening to the programme inspired me to ask you what Bring Him Home means to you?  Let me know below.

To help you along, here’s a playlist of Alfie singing Bring Him Home:

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