Les Miserables

All posts tagged Les Miserables

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:

thanks for reading
if you like what you see, hit the sharing buttons below and spread the word about Alfie
and if you want all your Alfie news straight to your inbox
plus 4 exclusive photos
just enter your name and email address on the right to subscribe
xx

 

Ever since news broke that Alfie Boe would play JM Barrie in Broadway’s Finding Neverland, expectations from fans have been sky high,  So, with Alfie’s opening night this week, our fabulous regular New York reviewer, Roberta, went along to not only the first night, but the following day’s matinee as well.  This is her review of the two performances.

Alfie Boe not only flew from Les Miz to Neverland as the headlines read but soared. The role of J. M. Barrie could have been written for Alfie. His youthful exuberance when playing with Peter and his brothers in the park or at the dining room table (great scene) and his caring and tenderness towards their mother exemplify qualities we have all associated with Alfie.

As was expected Alfie’s singing was extraordinary. I had seen this show last year with Matthew Morrison and thought the score was rather bland. I am not sure how he did it but Alfie breathed new life into these songs. They became vital and colourful and you left the theatre humming them.  The most impressive and surprising thing about Alfie’s performance in his new role was his mastery of the very complex choreography which dominates act 1.  Anyone thinking Alfie has moved into an easier, less exhausting role in Neverland (which included me) from Les Miz is mistaken.  Alfie jumps on and off benches, twirls around lamp posts, chases children through a park, is turned upside down and leaps over a park bench landing on his feet all in perfect time to the music on a stage filled with other performers. It is truly amazing to watch him do all this with such pinpoint accuracy while sometimes singing at the same time.   All this comes in the first act and Alfie seemed much more relaxed in act 2, developing a nice relationship with Laura Michelle Kelly’s character, Sylvia.  The audience even applauded when Barrie and Sylvia finally kiss, although I have to note that they did the same when Matthew Morrison was in the role.

A month ago almost to the day I had watched Alfie as a dying, old man utter the words “to love another person is to see the face of God”.  Last night I saw Alfie as an imaginative author creating Peter Pan and becoming the father of four orphan boys.  To me this is a truly remarkable transformation and a testimony to Alfie’s skills and abilities.  He is truly brilliant in both roles.

Thanks for that great review Roberta, as ever you made me feel as if I was there watching.

FN 1st night

thanks for reading – please share!

if you like what you see, why not subscribe?

all your Alfie news straight to your inbox

plus 4 exclusive photos

xx

I am a huge fan of musical theatre and as we get towards the end of January, I’ve teamed up with Angry Baby’s Flo Bannigan to share her top ten ‘must see’ musicals of 2016.  The shows are in no particular order and are from both Broadway and the West End so if you can get to New York or London this year, these are the shows to see.

Alfie Boe in Les Miserables:
Anyone who knows their tenors will already be well aware that Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean is the ticket to die for. His run in the role on Broadway ends in February, but he has already spilled the beans that he will be moving straight into another show. The question is – which one? With rehearsal time to assimilate a new leading man anything from two weeks to two months, we may not know for quite a while, but we can be sure that any show which Alfie headlines will sell out fast.

Hamilton:
You’d have to have been living under a rock to not have heard of this one by now. After a sell out run at the Public Theatre, Hamilton moved to Broadway in August 2015. Click here to read more.

The Color Purple:
The Color Purple‘s revival first played at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory in 2013 before moving to Broadway in December of 2015. Although having only just opened, it has received amazing reviews and is set to be a big contender at 2016’s Tony Awards.

Sheridan Smith:
Although Sheridan Smith is not, strictly speaking, a musical theatre moment, she is definitely one to watch out for in 2016. I first saw her on the West End in Legally Blonde years ago, and she’ll be back in 2016 as Fanny Brice in the revival of Funny Girl. In 2015 it opened at the Menier Chocolate Factory, where it will continue to play to sell out audiences in early 2016 before moving to the West End in April.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch:
This is a bittersweet one, as Hedwig and the Angry Inch closed on Broadway in September. However this is because it is making plans to come to London in the near future! Yay!

School of Rock:
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical adaptation of the hit movie School of Rock opened on Broadway in 2015. It is planning to open at the London Palladium too, in late 2016. Watch out for hordes of child actors competing for the hottest roles since Matilda – good luck kids, you all deserve the break!

Spring Awakening:
Deaf West Theatre’s revival of Spring Awakening, which incorporates sign language into the original show, opened on Broadway in 2015. Although it is a strictly limited engagement, it is wowing audiences every single night.

The King And I:
A revival of The King and I opened on Broadway in 2015, starring Kelli O’Hara and Hoon Lee. It picked up a fair few Tonys at the 2015 awards, and looks like it’ll run for a lot longer yet. It’s a show with lots of memories for the blogger behind Angry Baby, Flo Bannigan, as she played one of the King’s children in the 2012 UK tour.

Finding Neverland:
Another screen to stage adaptation, that started life at Leicester’s ‘Curve’ theatre, Finding Neverland opened on Broadway starring Glee’s Matthew Morrison. It did not receive any Tony nominations, but it is still selling out and stunning audiences. Matthew Morrison will be leaving the show early in 2016 and his replacement, Tony Yazbeck, is sure to bring something new to the role.

Beautiful:
Beautiful has been playing on Broadway for a while now, and this year Chilina Kennedy replaced Jessie Mueller in the starring role of Carole King. In 2015 it opened on the West End and its a show I’d love to catch at some point.

So there you have our top ten shows for 2016, a mix of the classic and the new – clips from all shows can be found in this playlist:

Hope you get the chance to see at least one of them this year!

Massive thanks to Flo Bannigan for writing this and sharing with me!

thank you for reading – please share

if you like what you see, why not subscribe?

all your Alfie news straight to your inbox

plus 4 exclusive photos

plus the chance to win some Les Mis goodies

xx

Back in July 2014 I posted 40 reasons to love Alfie Boe – another blog post mentioning 50 shades was recently suggested so here is 50 Shades of Boe…or 50 reasons to love Alfie!

Don’t forget to share everywhere so everyone else can also be Boe’d!

1. This is his most famous song – do you need another reason to love Alfie?

2. Nick Jonas’s (Marius in 25th Les Mis) brother Joe was in La Boheme on Broadway with alfie

3. Alfie hails from Fleetwood, Lancashire (although he was born in Blackpool in 1973).

4. Alfie is the youngest of nine siblings (4 boys and 5 girls) born to Alfred and Pat.

5. Alfie loves cooking and once considered becoming a chef (although he did once cut his finger on live TV!)

6. Other career changes considered include a personal trainer for the Salt Lake City police force.

7. Alfie is a Lyric Tenor which means his vocal range (excluding falsetto) is approximately the C one octave below middle C (C3) to the D one octave above middle C (D5) with the ability to extend a little to either side.

8. Alfie played Jean ValJean in the 25th Anniversary Les Miserables concert and at the Queens Theatre for 5 months in 2011 – but you all knew that one right?

9. When playing JVJ as The Mayor in Les Mis, Alfie used to wear the socks belonging to the convict JVJ costume in order to better inhabit the role.

10. Alfie once bunked off opera rehearsals in Strasbourg to see Bob Dylan in concert – apparently it was worth it!

11. Alfie is married to an American actress, Sarah Boe.  They met in San Francisco.

12. Alfie was the subject of a South Bank Show documentary in 2013.

13. Alfie once supported the Fron Male Voice Choir on tour.

14. David Miller of Il Divo was in La Boheme on Broadway with Alfie (they played alternate nights as Rodolfo).

15. Alfie recorded some demo Queen tracks at Abbey Road studios whilst a student – he listened back with obvious embarrassment on a recent documentary!

16. Alfie used to work at the Blackpool Opera House in a backstage / security role.

17. Alfie has recorded Empty Chairs, Empty Tables with two of the singers who played Marius: Michael Ball (original Marius and 10th anniversary concert) and Nick Jonas (25th anniversary concert).

18. Alfie recorded Barcelona with Katherine Jenkins for her 2014 album, Home Sweet Home – having first sung it live at Freddie for a Day with Laura Wright in 2013.

19. Alfie was a body mechanic at the TVR factory in Bispham – if you know nothing else about Alfie, you know that!!

20. After graduating from the Royal College of Music, Alfie went on to train at the National Opera Studio.

21. Won the Christie prize at Glyndebourne for Albert Herring.

22. Appeared on several Clint Boon Experience albums as “opera dude”.

23. Spent a few nights sleeping on a park bench in Hyde Park “in between digs” so to speak.

24. Played drums in a local rock band, Whisky Train as a teenager.

25. Alfie is an ambassador for the Prince’s Foundation for Children and The Arts.

26. Alfie sang at the wedding of Peter and Autumn Phillips. (Ave Maria and Panis Angelicus).

27. Alfie famously prefers to perform in opera, rather than listen to them – this is usually quoted incorrectly as “Alfie hates opera”.

28. Alfie often takes fans cameras and phones and takes photos of himself and the band on stage – perks of being front row!

29. New Zealand operatic trio Sol3 Mio supported Alfie on his recent UK tour – here they are singing Volare together:

30. Alfie auditioned (and was called back) for Raoul in Phantom of the Opera – the RCM beckoned though and we shall have to imagine his Raoul.

31. Won a Tony Award as part of the cast of La Boheme on Broadway.

32. First professional audition was for the D’oyly Carte Opera company – he sang You Are My Hearts Delight.

33. Moonwalked across the stage during final performance of Romeo et Juliette at the Royal Opera House.

34. Appeared on Vanessa Feltz’s BBC Radio 2 programme as part of the Wednesday Words of Warmth – his tip to get through a Wednesday was to make a big bowl of meat pasta sauce.

35. West London Karaoke Champion 1994 singing Suspicious Minds.

36. Patron of Trinity Hospice, Blackpool.

37. First recording Alfie appears on is Die Fledermaus, with the D’oyly Carte company (in the chorus).

38. Suffered from chlorine poisoning whilst filming a projection for The Pearl Fishers at the ENO.

39. Brother Michael is also a talented singer, recent album is called A La Voix.

40. Alfie and Sarah’s first dance at the their wedding was Led Zeppelin’s Rain Song.

41. First, and so far only, performer, with Renee Fleming to sing on the balcony of Buckingham Palace (at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations).

42. Alfie was first introduced to La Boheme by his brother Michael – thank you Michael!

43. Alfie is great at comedy falls – as witnessed by viewers of Jonathan Ross show in October 2013!

44. Twitter often mentions how much Alfie looks like Declan Donnelly – maybe, but only without his beard – judge for yourself:

dec

45. Knows nothing about dancing – as evidenced by his appearances on Strictly It Takes Two!

46. First song with lyrics written by Alfie recorded for Serenata 2014: My Heart is Yours.

47. Singing the role of Jimmy in Classic Quadrophenia in July 2015 – another one you all knew surely!

48. Used 40lbs of ice in the ALS ice bucket challenge.

49. Has a golden retriever, Guinness and a black and white cat, name???

50. A photo of Alfie; together with his amazing voice, what other reason to you need to love Alfie Boe? (thanks to Carole Hunt who took this gorgeous photo and generously allowed me to use it on my blog – what a star xx)

alfie-carfest.jpg

 

 thanks for reading and sharing!

if you like what you see, why not subscribe?

All you Alfie news straight to your inbox

plus 4 exclusive photos

xx

With the New Year celebrations over for another year, it’s time for our first Friday Round Up in 2015 and the first since before Christmas.  Luckily for us, there was a new interview aired this week on BBC Radio Cornwall.  Alfie was interviewed way back in September by Debbie McCrory and they held the whole hour long interview back until this week – just the thing to banish the post tour blues. Thanks Marcia for sharing:

There’s a lot of chat about Les Mis as you would expect (Debbie had previously interviewed Alfie after the 25th anniversary) and amusing to hear Alfie struggling to say something good about Russell Crowe as Javert.  Damning with faint praise I think it’s called!  Also, some nice chat about Murray (he’s a Cornish lad) and the recording process of Serenata as opposed to Love Was A Dream.  Both were quick but one was considerably quicker!  A nice selection of music from Alfie’s earlier career too although it would have been nice to hear some of the Lehar as it was referenced in the interview.  Radio interviewers do tend to play a varied choice of music from Alfie’s career but Love Was A Dream never seems to get a look in – wonder why?  Slippers story gets another airing too!

In addition, Alfie was a guest on Bruce’s Hall of Fame on 27 December.  He sang Volare in tribute to Dean Martin which was lovely and had us all singing along at home I’m sure (two words at least, just like the tour!).  Alfie was first on which was great as it meant we didn’t have to watch the whole programme if we didn’t want to, although that would have meant missing a cracking turn from Alfie’s mate Jason Manford in tribute to Les Dawson.  Volare was Alfie’s only song but it was on the whole well received (I’m discounting the audience reaction here as they gave every performer a standing ovation) on social media.  Incidentally, interesting to see Alfie respond to people’s rude tweets; even with provocation he is always polite to trolls.  That doesn’t stop him putting them in their place though!  Again, thanks to Marcia for sharing the clip:

Volare is of course from Alfie’s new album, Serenata (available below) which is in the classical top ten for a sixth straight week!

serenata

thanks for reading and sharing!

if you like what you see, why not subscribe?

start the New Year off with all your Alfie info straight into your inbox!

(plus 4 Alfie photos of course!)

xx

Do you hear the people sing?  The famous lines from the Schonberg / Boublil musical are plastered all over Melbourne, on trams, lamp posts and most importantly on the front of the historic Her Majesty’s Theatre.  This is the first time since the late 1980’s that the musical has been staged in Australia following the resurgence of interest in the piece after Australia’s own Hugh Jackman took on the leading role of Jean ValJean in the Oscar nominated movie.

The movie adaptation has re-fuelled interest around the world and the new staging (first reviewed in Roberta’s review of the Broadway revival) moves the storyline on quite a bit, filling in what can be seen as gaping holes in the original staging’s plot line. Additionally, showing clear comparisons between the movie and stage means that audiences who have only seen the movie will be more familiar with the new staging.  In particular, the opening scenes of the convicts and Fantine’s descent into prostitution bear close resemblance to the film and make it much clearer what is happening; a more direct line to Victor Hugo’s masterpiece can also be seen here. The most noticeable change is the absence of the famous turntable which adds nothing to the barricade scene, rather the emotional impact of the end of the barricade siege is lessened.  However, to counter this, the tunnel projection used in the sewer scenes is excellent.  Musically, extra music strengthens the audience perception of the love that Jean ValJean has for Cosette.  Equally, the relationship of Eponine to the Thenardiers is clearer.

And what of the performances? Spectacular! Simon Gleeson’s Jean ValJean manages to be both robust and vulnerable, particularly in the closing stages where frail old age has overtaken his extraordinary strength.  His performance was a highlight of the show, yet his rendition of the loving and tender Bring Him Home left me cold; others think that the performance is up there with the best of them.  Having said that, sniffles could be heard throughout the theatre in the final stages when JVJ is reunited with Cosette on his deathbed.  Patrice Tipoki is wonderful as Fantine, portraying her piteous descent into poverty with heart wrenching emotion.  Hayden Tee is a fearsome Javert, Kerry-Ann Greenland is a cheeky Eponine and had the best voice of the entire cast and Trevor Astley and Lara Mulcahy did a fantastic job of being horrible to little Cosette.

Overall, this is a fantastic production with some nice new touches to keep the show updated (the candles on stage during Empty Chairs and Empty Tables is an inspired idea). Costumes are brighter and in the Melbourne production, a bright blue, borrowed from Victor Hugo’s own artwork seems to convey the idea that the piece has been freshened for a 2014 audience: no mean feat after a nearly 30 year exposure on the world stage.  Currently running in Melbourne is an exhibition at the State Library of Victoria, From Page to Stage, an exploration of the original novel, movie and stage musical.  Hopefully, this fascinating exhibition will move onto London or New York and if it does, it’s well worth a visit.  Quite apart from the chance to see Hugo’s manuscript, you get the chance to see Alfie Boe’s virtuoso performance in the 25th anniversary concert.

Thank you for reading this and thanks also to my fellow Alfie fan Margie (and her lovely husband Troy, not such a fan!) and two Les Mis fans, Rob and Erin, who are not remotely interested in Alfie – no accounting for taste – and this review is an amalgamation of all our thoughts.  To end, here is a video of the Aussie cast:

thanks for reading 

if you like what you see, why not subscribe?

you get sneak peeks of upcoming blogs, access to subscriber only posts and 

4 free Alfie photos straight into your inbox!

xx

 

I am often asked what it is about Alfie that I love – if this often happens to you as well, this post is for you to share with everyone that hasn’t yet been Boe’d so go ahead and click on the share buttons at the bottom of the post xx

So here goes – I’d love to know what you would add to this list!

1. This is his most famous song – do you need another reason to love Alfie?

2. Alfie hails from Fleetwood, Lancashire (although he was born in Blackpool in 1973).

3. Alfie is the youngest of nine siblings (4 boys and 5 girls) born to Alfred and Pat.

4. Alfie loves cooking and once considered becoming a chef (although he did once cut his finger on live TV!)

5. Other career changes considered include a personal trainer for the Salt Lake City police force.

6. Alfie is a Lyric Tenor which means his vocal range (excluding falsetto) is approximately the C one octave below middle C (C3) to the D one octave above middle C (D5) with the ability to extend a little to either side.

7. Alfie played Jean ValJean in the 25th Anniversary Les Miserables concert and at the Queens Theatre for 5 months in 2011 – but you all knew that one right?

8. When playing JVJ as The Mayor in Les Mis, Alfie used to wear the socks belonging to the convict JVJ costume in order to better inhabit the role.

9. Alfie is married to an American actress, Sarah Boe.  They met in San Francisco.

10. Alfie was the subject of a South Bank Show documentary in 2013.

11. Alfie once supported the Fron Male Voice Choir on tour.

12. David Miller of Il Divo was in La Boheme on Broadway with Alfie (they played alternate nights as Rodolfo).

13. Alfie recorded some demo Queen tracks at Abbey Road studios whilst a student – he listened back with obvious embarrassment on a recent documentary!

14. Alfie used to work at the Blackpool Opera House in a backstage / security role.

15. Alfie has recorded Empty Chairs, Empty Tables with two of the singers who played Marius: Michael Ball (original Marius and 10th anniversary concert) and Nick Jonas (25th anniversary concert).

16. Alfie was a body mechanic at the TVR factory in Bispham – if you know nothing else about Alfie, you know that!!

17. After graduating from the Royal College of Music, Alfie went on to train at the National Opera Studio.

18. Won the Christie prize at Glyndebourne for Albert Herring.

19. Appeared on several Clint Boon Experience albums as “opera dude”.

20. Spent a few nights sleeping on a park bench in Hyde Park “in between digs” so to speak.

21. Played drums in a local rock band, Whisky Train as a teenager.

22. Alfie is an ambassador for the Prince’s Foundation for Children and The Arts.

23. Alfie sang at the wedding of Peter and Autumn Phillips. (Ave Maria and Panis Angelicus).

24. Alfie famously prefers to perform in opera, rather than listen to them – this is usually quoted incorrectly as “Alfie hates opera”.

25. Alfie often takes fans cameras and phones and takes photos of himself and the band on stage – perks of being front row!

26. Alfie auditioned (and was called back) for Raoul in Phantom of the Opera – the RCM beckoned though and we shall have to imagine his Raoul.

27. Won a Tony Award as part of the cast of La Boheme on Broadway.

28. First professional audition was for the D’oyly Carte Opera company – he sang You Are My Hearts Delight.

29. Moonwalked across the stage during final performance of Romeo et Juliette at the Royal Opera House.

30. Appeared on Vanessa Feltz’s BBC Radio 2 programme as part of the Wednesday Words of Warmth – his tip to get through a Wednesday was to make a big bowl of meat pasta sauce.

31. West London Karaoke Champion 1994 singing Suspicious Minds.

32. First recording Alfie appears on is Die Fledermaus, with the D’oyly Carte company (in the chorus).

33. Suffered from chlorine poisoning whilst filming a projection for The Pearl Fishers at the ENO.

34. Brother Michael is also a talented singer, recent album is called A La Voix.

35. Alfie and Sarah’s first dance at the their wedding was Led Zeppelin’s Rain Song.

36. First, and so far only,performer, with Renee Fleming to sing on the balcony of Buckingham Palace (at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations).

37. Alfie was first introduced to La Boheme by his brother Michael – thank you Michael!

38. Alfie is great at comedy falls – as witnessed by viewers of Jonathan Ross show in October 2013!

39. Twitter often mentions how much Alfie looks like Declan Donnelly – maybe, but only without his beard – judge for yourself:

dec

40. A photo of Alfie; together with his amazing voice, what other reason to you need to love Alfie Boe? (thanks to Carole Hunt who took this gorgeous photo and generously allowed me to use it on my blog – what a star xx)

alfie-carfest.jpg

 

 

thanks for reading and sharing

if you like what you see, why not subscribe?

you get sneak peeks of upcoming blogs, access to subscriber only posts and

4 Alfie photos straight into your inbox

xx

 

 

 

 

From the moment that it was announced that Les Miserables would return to Broadway, speculation  was rife as to who would be cast as Jean Valjean.  Following his amazing success as Valjean in the 25th anniversary concert at the 02, many fans of the show were keen to see Alfie Boe cast.  Social media was awash with fans showing the love for Alfie in this role, even after Alfie told fans that he was officially finished with Les Mis.  Indeed, this continued, in a lesser vein right up until it was announced that Ramin Karimloo would play the role.  Ramin had already played the role to great acclaim in London and Toronto and it was generally felt that he was a good choice.  In addition, he played a fabulous Enjolras in the 25th annviersary concert at the 02 in London (click here).

Roberta Kappus, a fellow Alfie fan, saw the Broadway Les Mis last month and kindly consented to review it (beware, there are spoilers so don’t read if you don’t want to know!):

I saw Les Mis a week after opening night and again last week and I did not want it to end. It is wonderful and Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean is wonderful. Both the show and Karimloo received high praise from the critics and both totally deserved it. As I write this Karimloo has been nominated for Best Actor and Les Mis for Best Musical Revival by both  the Drama League and the Tony (US Olivers) Awards.

From the beginning you know you are not going to be seeing the production currently running at the Queen’s theatre or the last production on Broadway. The prisoners are on benches with oars. This is perhaps a nod to the original work and/or to the movie. And, the turntable is gone. This is a great improvement. The cast moves more freely and naturally throughout the performance. There is a new orchestration which I did not notice at the time as I was too engrossed in the performance. It was only later at home listening to the original score that I realized some movements were missing or had been changed.

To me the most obvious change with this new production was the physicality involved in a number of the scenes. The Confrontation is no longer a scene with Valjean and Javert feigning threatening actions. Instead the fighting with realistic punches and wrestling moves results in one or the other of the actors being thrown to the stage floor with neither missing a beat of the song. It is amazing that they are not totally out of breath just from the fighting.  At the barricade, Valjean and Javert do not just spar verbally but physically as well. At one point Javert is slammed against a theatre wall at the front of the stage by Valjean. The physicality is not confined to the principals but appears a few other times throughout the production. Because of the intensity of the fighting and to prevent injuries there is a “fight call” before every performance where safety precautions are reviewed with the cast.

Another of the changes in the staging that I thought was very effective was the scene following the sewer escape where the chorus sings “Did You See Them Going Off to Fight.”   The stage is darkened and each member of the chorus carries a candle in a jar onto the stage. When the song is finished the candles are left on the stage. Marius comes out and begins “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables”, the students and Gavroche appear. As the students and Gavroche leave the stage each takes a candle. It comes across as a very emotional scene.

What is important is that the story flows, the music seems to be as I remembered it and the singing especially by Ramin Karimloo is excellent, stunning, more than outstanding. While Mr. Karimloo is probably better known to the readers of this blog, it is Mr. Swenson who is better known by the New York audiences for his performances in Hair and Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Mr. Karimloo is considered a Broadway rookie. However, that did not dampen the critics’ enthusiasm for his opening night performance. It was called “sterling” by the New York Times which further noted that the highlight of the performance and the production was Mr. Karimloo’s rendition of Bring Him Home. Another critic wrote that Karimloo’s singing of Bring Him Home brought the production to a higher level. I can only agree. Karimloo was incredible and deserves all the praise he has received. Prior to this I had only seen Karimloo at a club in New York performing Broadgrass – his term for a combination of Broadway and blue grass – which does not prepare you for his performance here. I have to admit that I was totally blown away by Karimloo’s performance in Les Mis. As a side note, it was not only the singing that some of the NY reviews appreciated. Mr. Karimloo has been working out in preparation for the role and has developed a fine set of abs. This led to the headline “Brawny ballad singer Ramin Karimloo leading Les Miz”.

Of the rest of the cast, there was no one who did not perform well. Cliff Saunders as Thenardier does deserve mention. I thought he was the best Thenardier I have seen. (I did not see Matt Lucas live in this role.) He also played the role in the Canadian production. He brings a slightly different twist to the part. I spoke to him at the stage door after one of the performances and he said that he had not seen Les Mis when he got the role and deliberately did not see it after so that he could bring his own interpretation to the role.

Les Mis on Broadway is an incredible experience. Ramin Karimloo is absolutely outstanding as Jean Valjean. His performance is breathtaking. Will Swenson is excellent as Javert. If you are going to be in New York this is well worth seeing. I know I will be seeing it again.

A fabulous review from Roberta!  As a side note, Roberta also mentioned that at the two performances she attended the whole cast including little Cosette and Gavroche came out, signed autographs, posed for pictures and thanked people for coming.   Ramin has also be doing a video blog for fans, or a vlog, take a look at the first one:

Thanks for reading – if you like what you see, why not subscribe?

Four Alfie Boe photos will find their way to your inbox and you get exclusive sneak peeks of upcoming posts!

Heard of Collabro yet?  Well, if you haven’t, where have you been this week?  Collabro are the boy band featured in the first episode of Britain’s Got Talent (BGT).  At the time of the audition they had only been together for a month, a fact that had the vast majority of us, particularly and perceptibly, Simon Cowell, groaning at the thought of the awfulness that was to come.

And then they started to sing…and it was not awful at all, it was …wow! The choice of song, Stars, from Les Miserables was unexpected but, dare I use an overused word, inspired?  After all, BGT has previous form for propelling singers of Les Mis songs to superstardom, even if they don’t go onto win the show.  Additionally, by using one of the less famous songs, there was less chance of the audience comparing them to the well known version. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock this week, here here is Collabro singing Stars:

It now remains to be seen which song the band choose for their semi-final appearance; do they choose another Les Mis song, something from another musical or something else altogether?  Apparently, Collabro, or Richard in particular, cite one of their influences as Alfie Boe.  Alfie’s definitive song is Bring Him Home, from Les Mis and we know that this song lends itself beautifully to an arrangement for at least four voices as showcased by The Four ValJeans at the end of the Les Mis 25th Anniversary Concert at the O2 in 2011.

While we wait to see what the future holds for Collabro, lets take another look at the master of Bring Him Home, Alfie Boe: This performance is from Alfie’s Storyteller tour at the Royal Albert Hall.

 

Thank you for reading xx

 

 

January is a notoriously difficult month after the Christmas and New Year festivities and it is no different if you are an Alfie Boe fan.  As we are in an unexpectedly quiet time before the excitement of his small screen acting debut in Mr Selfridge on 23 February, I’m taking this opportunity to share two more stories of fab friends I’ve met through following Alfie.  I first met Sally and Cecelia at the Royal Albert Hall in April 2013 on the Storyteller tour and we quickly became firm friends, meeting up several times for dinner, wine and chat.  Indeed, Cecelia and I are shortly to spend a weekend with Sally where we can indulge our obsession to our hearts content!

First, here is how Sally came to follow Alfie:

I am 54 years old, a mother of two and a grandmother of three (at the last count). And until 2011 I had never been to a musical concert on my own……Back in 2007 I remember coming home from Brussels for the weekend and watching an impossibly young looking tenor named Alfie Boe sing Stranger in Paradise on Parkinson, and thinking ‘Blimey, he’s good.’  And promptly went back to Belgium again without taking it further.  More fool me!Then after 4 years away I came back to the UK in September 2010.  I had bought the 10th anniversary concert of Les Mis back in the day and had seen a lot of the blurb around the 25th anniversary production at the O2.    And then I caught Les Mis at 25 with Matt Lucas on the TV and thought I remember that man – where have I seen Jean Valjean before?  And so I got a copy of the concert.

It was a revelation.  Alfies’ voice, by turns soft and lyrical, then forceful and soaring was totally mesmeric – the show itself was wonderful with a fine supporting cast but it was the almost slight figure with the expressive eyes that kept my whole attention.  So then it was You Tube – I found the Parkinson show excerpt, discovered the making of La Passione (he does so many things in the kitchen you would think he had an interest in food!!!) and of course ‘Nessun Dorma’ in Matt Lucas’s kitchen.  I saw and read all the interviews, marvelled at his wonderful family life, laughed at his antics (his embarrassment on Loose Women still makes me giggle) and joined the ABUK forum.  And then came the news that he was going to be at the Queens Theatre as JVJ in Les Mis.  I booked the best ticket I could.  I was so excited. Bored all my friends and amused my family – I’m known for being quite pragmatic.  And on the due date turned up at the theatre only to find Alfie was sick.  I was devastated.  Jonathan Williams was an excellent replacement but what was I to do? I wanted to see Alfie but I had never seen a show twice before – I booked a ticket for the following Tuesday.  Got there, heart in mouth but no announcement.  Alfie was on and he was sublime; I was totally wrapped up in the tale of this man’s redemption and sacrifice.  And so was he.  There seemed to be no acting involved – he simply was Valjean.   I went back three times more, once to the Stage Door after a lot of encouragement from ABUK friends.  And then came the concerts, the Bring Him Home and Storyteller tours.   I have seen 9 in all from Aberdeen to Brighton via Blackpool and London and I have loved them all. I even went to Carfest South when my knowledge of cars could be written on the back of a jam pot cover. Alfie on his albums is wonderful to listen to but live, he is a tour de force, by turn serious, bawdy, energetic (he leaps over stages, boxes and barriers to get to his audience) and above all that glorious voice that seems to sing exactly what he tells it to whether it be classical, rock, blues or country.  My friends think I’m mad and my family think Alfie should take out a restraining order.  I don’t care.  I’m on the Alfie train and loving every moment of the ride.

Cecelia is originally from the USA but has lived in London for many years, having come to work and study and ended up marrying a wonderfully understanding Englishman.   I can confidently state that he is wonderfully understanding because this seems to be a necessity in husbands or partners of die hard Alfie fans!

Cecelia first heard Alfie sing at the Festival of Remembrance in 2008 and thought it was a lovely performance but did not send her scurrying to find out more about the cute singer. Instead, it was a couple of years later when she took her daughter to the 25th Anniversary concert of Les Mis at the O2 that Cecelia fell in love with Alfie Boe and his voice.  Like many other Alfie fans I may add!

Cecelia then saw him in concert at Watford and began following the forum chat on ABUK for a while before taking the plunge and joining in with the madness.  Her wonderfully understanding husband proved to be just that when he bought her tickets to the Storyteller tour at the Royal Albert Hall which brings me back to how we all first met, face to face. such happy memories!

Thanks for reading once again xx