Musicals

Alfie Boe is Jean Val Jean, a quote from a previous feature and interview (2015, no less!) as part of the 30th anniversary celebrations of Les Miserables, Club 24601 (forever indebted to Peter Lockyer for that title).  I was lucky enough to see the all star Les Mis concert at the Gielgud theatre this week and, although my last blog for Alfie and thoughtsofjustafan was five months ago, my reaction was so strong that I simply had to review the show.

Seven years ago, I discovered the voice of Alfie Boe through, like a lot of fans, the 25th anniversary concert of Les Mis which was sadly far too late to see him in the role of Jean Val Jean (JVJ). Roll forward to 2015 and the next part of his journey in Les Mis was on Broadway and I wasn’t able to attend.  Convinced that my chance had gone and seeing Alfie as JVJ would be filed under ‘what ifs’, you can imagine how thrilled I was to know that Alfie would again reprise the role that catapulted him to fame, and this time in London.  Seven years waiting…and it was everything I expected and a whole lot more.

From the moment that Alfie first appears, he commands the stage; you feel the mixture of anger and fear from the off.  The voice was never in doubt and is as rich as you would expect but Alfie’s characterisation takes his vocal performance to a whole new level.  In the Club 24601 interview, Alfie singled out the soliloquy as his favourite song to sing because “It’s a real embracing of emotion, expressing the emotion to the audience.  I put a lot into those moments, anxiety, fear, passion to reach an understanding of who he is as a character, so I really like that moment in particular.” This is the moment when you first see the possibility of redemption in JVJ and Alfie’s acting skills come to the fore and he transforms from the angry parolee weighed down by life into someone moving onto a new life.

Alfie’s vocal skills aside, I felt that from the beginning to the end, Alfie inhabited the role of JVJ.  We watch as his demeanour changes from world weary prisoner and parolee to upstanding member of society before discovering love through parenting Cosette and the descent once more into pain and loss. Throughout the show we see that fear never leaves the character, underlying everything is the fear that he will be found and he will lose Cosette. The physical change in Alfie from the barricade toughness to the loss of the only thing he ever loved is heartrending to witness.  In that one scene he is defeated and reverts to the JVJ we met in scene one; his whole body becomes that of an old man with nothing and no one to live for.

Another song that Alfie referenced as being one he enjoyed singing was the epilogue, where again, JVJ is moving towards redemption, at least in his own mind, this time in death and the glory of life everlasting.  This poignant scene was played to perfection, with Alfie  portraying the swirl of emotions from peace, expectation of being lifted to glory and the palpable relief when Cosette returns to him one last time.  Audible tears were heard throughout the theatre.  The only other stage role I’ve seen Alfie in was Billy Bigelow in Carousel and he was most convincing in that character’s move towards redemption; perhaps the exploration of redemption is the hook that keeps Alfie returning to the role.

Michael Ball as Javert is outstanding.  He plays the part extremely well and, for me, is the best portrayal of Javert’s inner conflict over JVJ’s redemption I’ve ever seen.  Javert’s anguish is awful to watch and rightly causes the audience to genuinely mourn his death through suicide.  Carrie Hope-Fletcher and Rob Houchen were splendid and of course Matt Lucas and Katy Secombe as the Thenardiers were brilliant.  Matt’s voice was always wonderful but it’s gained an extra depth since he first took the role whilst his partnership with Katy is sublime – these roles are made for them.

However, of the rest of the cast, the actors that most impressed me were Bradley Jaden as Enjolras and Shan Ako as Eponine.  Eponine has always been my favourite character (she has two of my favourite songs) and Shan brought just the right touch of bravado and vulnerability to the role whilst also possessing a really lovely voice.  Bradley not only looks the part of Enjolras but has a wonderfully rich voice that should hopefully see him become much more well known in the world of theatre.

Photo: Seamus Ryan

Overall, the show more than surpassed my expectations and I’m hard pressed to think how it could be bettered; this is one of those rare moments in theatre which is perfect.  Everyone is magnificent, from the lighting becoming part of the set, to the orchestra and emsemble cast.  Do whatever you have to do to see this show – it’s the best I’ve ever seen.

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Caroline Ward’s selection of songs features yet another couple of new entrants to the Six Sensational Songs list! It’s also the only selection that has nearly all Michael and Alfie songs.

Love Changes Everything is of course Michael Ball’s signature song but Alfie sang it, for one night only, at the celebration concert for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s birthday in 2018.

Incurably Romantic from Alfie and Michael’s first tour Together.

A Wonderful World / Over the Rainbow

You’ll Be Back, at Carfest South 2018.

Wham Medley.

Bring Me Sunshine – with Rays of Sunshine choir.

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Jeanette Halton says that “‘I’ve loved listening to Alfie for many years and really love his passion for all genres of music and his ability to sing everything from The Who to La Boheme.” Hear, hear Jeanette – these are your choices.

Buona Sera, from Serenata, chosen by Jeanette as it reminds of a happy holiday on the Amalfi coast.

Keep Me In Your Heart – Jeanette loves the audience participation!

Love Reign O’er Me

Wagon Wheel – Jeanette loves to see Alfie playing guitar.

The Wham Medley – Jeanette says “eight mins of just pure joy and happiness, who can’t love the 80’s classics”. And so say all of us!

Sing, Sing, Sing which Jeanette fell in love with after hearing it at Llangollen.

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Like most of us, Sarah has found it difficult to choose just six sensational songs! This is what she says: “Since I discovered Alfie he has brought such variety of music into my life. He sings such a wide range as well that picking six is so difficult. Alfie literally has a song to suit every mood. Having said that based on my current mood these are my top six most listened to songs at the moment.

Love Reign O’er Me – Sarah says “I don’t think any explanation is needed really as to why this is my absolute favourite. I love ‘rock’ Alfie and when I heard him sing this live earlier this year that was a dream come true. His voice was made to perform that song.”

Run – “This is such a beautiful song and the emotion he puts into it every time gets me. I love seeing this performed live. I feel this song is one where Alfie is in his element.”

Wagon Wheel – “I must confess country is not my usual genre but I love this song. Played live with the excellent musicians in the band, this one is hard to beat.”

That’s Alright Mama – a song that Alfie previously sang during his 2012 – 13 shows. Sarah says “I heard Alfie sing this the first time I saw him live. Those swivelling hips of his are a thing of beauty”. Restrain yourselves at 29 seconds into the video!

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah, from the opening night of Alfie’s 2014 tour.
“This song makes me want to jump up and sing and dance. As always Alfie’s version is amazing.”

Hamilton‘s You’ll Be Back. “I think this song is perfect for Alfie and Michael. I loved it from the first time I heard it and it holds fond memories for me from being in the audience at last years TV special.”

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Susan Black is a long time fan from Eastern England and these are her Six Sensational Songs.

Nessun Dorma, from Matt Lucas’ kitchen – Susan heard Alfie sing this and has never been the same since!

Run, at Hampton Court Palace, 2017.

Je Crois Entendre Encore at Thetford – apparently, according to Sue, you could “hear a pin drop”.

Bring Him Home – as if you didn’t know!

Dimming of the Day at the Royal Albert Hall with the lovely Emilia Mitiku.

My all time favourite!

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Although 2019 had a quiet start for Alfie, it’s about to get a whole lot busier, with An Evening with Alfie Boe starting in just a few weeks time. And then of course we have the excitement of Les Mis to look forward to. Before we get bowled over with new events, let’s pay a visit to our series of Six Sensational Songs, this time from Emma Cropper and her son, Jamie. Emma hails from Fleetwood and, as she says, “when I heard about this singer from the wood I just had to listen!” These are their songs.

If I can Dream is Emma’s favourite song – the lyrics get Emma every time – and “Alfie sings it better than anyone.”

Emma says that the Storyteller album is one of her favourites and that Bridge Over Troubled Water really helped her at a difficult time.

Blood Brothers is one of Emma’s favourite musicals, so Tell Me It’s Not True has to be in her top six. “It always provokes such memories of the stage show and a great way to escape.”

Emma’s son Jamie also loves Alfie’s music so when Emma asked him which songs he wanted to nominate, he instantly said You’ll Never Walk Alone. Being Liverpool fans, as is Alfie, they know how powerful and important this song is to so many people. 

The Willy Wonka song, otherwise known as Pure Imagination, is Jamie’s other choice of song, because it reminds him of chocolate!

Finally, Emma and Jamie’s joint choice is He Lives In You from The Lion King, because “that was the soundtrack to our Christmas past!”

Another two new songs to add to our list of Six Sensational Songs!

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Exciting times for Les Mis fans as not only will Alfie Boe be starring in the West End concert version later this year, but John Owen-Jones will be sharing the role with him! John remains the youngest actor to play Jean Valjean and most recently, took over from Alfie on Broadway. Speaking since the announcement, John said “It’s been nearly ten years since the last time I played Jean Valjean in Les Miserables in London. I’m really excited to be going back to the role in what will be such a special version of the show. I am also delighted to note that when I appear in this production at the Gielgud Theatre, I shall have appeared as Jean Valjean in every London theatre in which the show has played!” John also featured as part of Club 24601, which took place to mark the thirtieth birthday of Les Mis.

Aptly, John has today released his fifth studio album, Spotlight. The songs are mostly from the world of musical theatre and have clearly been chosen to form a coherent narrative throughout, beginning with From Now On and ending with Goodbye from the Broadway musical Catch Me If You Can and Rocky Horror Show’s I’m Going Home. Choosing some classic songs that join together with newer tracks, the result is sheer class.

Beauty and the Beast’s Evermore is a song that has begun to be recorded by several artists and no wonder; the beautiful melody perfectly suit the range and strength of John’s voice. The last note alone is worth the album price – John says it might be the longest note he’s ever recorded and it surely must be!

The Prayer is a duet made famous by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli but has been sung and recorded by many artists since it’s first appearance. On Spotlight, John duets with fellow Welsh singer, Lucie Jones and the result is magical. Lucie’s lovely voice blends exquisitely with John’s and leaves the listener wanting to hear from them both. Other highlights from the album include I Dreamed a Dream, a version which has been specially arranged to incorporate musical motifs reminiscent of Jean Valjean, rather than Fantine, for whom the Les Mis song is written. It is a very restrained performance and brought to mind the eloquence of John’s Bring Him Home.

Climb Every Mountain has a very dramatic opening, whilst I defy anyone to listen to Raise Me Up without standing up and singing along at the top of their voice! The inclusion of Spandau Ballet’s Through the Barricades is a surprise but a happy one – the track is nicely understated and as John says, would work in a musical. Ending with a toned down version of I’m Going Home, John first shows us Goodbye, from the short lived musical, Catch Me If You Can, based on the movie of the same name. Upbeat and catchy, t’s a perfect musical theatre song and good to hear something that a lot of the audience might not be familiar with.

Spotlight is available to order here.

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In news sure to electrify fans of both Alfie Boe and Michael Ball, it is today confirmed that both will return to the London stage of Les Miserables – albeit in a fully staged concert version. Scheduled to run for sixteen weeks at the Gielgud theatre from August 10, this solves the conundrum of what to do with the super musical while it’s current home, the Queen’s Theatre, is being refurbished this summer.

Alfie will reprise the role of Jean Valjean, whereas Ball will take the role of Javert – if we weren’t excited before, we are now! This is a super exciting cast announcement, especially given that Matt Lucas will return to play Thenardier and Fantine will be played by West End star Carrie Hope Fletcher. In addition, another wonderful Valjean, John Owen-Jones will be returning for three shows a week.

Earlier today, Alex Bellfield of Celebrity Radio shared a YouTube chat with Alfie:

Tickets will be on sale here from 12 noon Thursday 7 February

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In at number eight in our quest to find your favourite Alfie Boe live song this year is a song that entered the chart in 2018 at number four and is from Together:

St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, June 2018

Alfie has been singing You’ll Never Walk Alone for a long time, and not just because he’s a Liverpool fan! This version in the glorious setting of St. George’s Chapel showcases Alfie’s classically trained voice superbly.

Despite it’s undoubted footballing connotations in the UK, the song is of course originally from the 1945 musical, Carousel, which Alfie appeared in 2017. However, Alfie’s character, Billy Bigelow doesn’t get to sing this song and it was a pleasure to hear Brenda Edwards’ Nettie sing it in the ENO production. Here is Alfie at the VE Day celebrations in 2015:

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This week, we’re looking at Helen Bird’s Six Sensational Songs.  Helen first saw Alfie at the Festival of Remembrance in 2007, a fresh faced young man, singing Bring Him Home.  At the time she just thought nothing of the singer, just that it was an apt song for Remembrance Weekend.  These are Helen’s six songs:

Pure Imagination from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Helen says ” I adore this film especially this song”.

I Vow To Thee My Country.  Helen says “This hymn reminds me of the many military church services I attended with my hubby whilst he was serving in the Army. I’ve chosen Linda Wellington’s footage of Alfie accompanied by The Central Band of The Royal British Legion at the First World War Commemorative Concert, St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle as this sounds just amazing.”

If I Can Dream from Storyteller.  Helen chose this as everyone has hopes and dreams and this sums it all up.

O Holy Night from Boston Pops’ Sleigh Ride.  Helen says “This is a hymn that will always remind me of my dear departed Mum, albeit I first saw and heard it being sung by Mario Lanza in the film The Great Caruso when we watched films on a Saturday afternoon, usually whilst she did the ironing.”

Love Reign O’er Me from Classic Quadrophenia.   This was the first time that Helen heard this song live, at Alfie and Michael’s outdoor concert at Walcot Hall in Shropshire in July 2017.  This was the second time Helen had seen Alfie live, the first being Birmingham in 2013.

Bring Him Home, Alfie’s signature song.  Helen says “I first heard him sing  this back in 2007. Although I didn’t start appreciating Alfie’s voice until my daughters brought home the DVD of the 25th anniversary concert of Les Miserables and I sat there transfixed to the TV, listening to the voice we all truly love. I decided to choose the 2007 Festival of Remembrance version because to me it brings to mind the importance of when it was performed and also because of my hubby’s military background. He lost several comrades during his time served and if he went away on exercise, I used to say to myself after he had left the house, bring him home safely.”

Thank you Helen for sharing your six sensational songs with us – three more new songs to add to our list!

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plus 4 exclusive photos, a welcome message from Alfie