Thirty years of Jean Valjean and we’re celebrating the legend that is Les Miserables by looking back at some memorable Valjean’s. So who better to start with than the best of them all (in the opinion of this blog anyway, and, I suspect in the opinions of one or two readers) than the current Broadway JVJ, Alfie Boe.
I interviewed Alfie before he started on Broadway and asked him what he thought would be the greatest difference in his approach from when he played the role in the West End. The main difference would be the difference in the production: “the production is completely different, it’s not the same show I performed in the West End”. Alfie went on to say that although the music is the same, the structure and choreography is different, so “I’m excited to embrace the new direction for the role”. As Alfie had appeared on Broadway before (La Boheme) I wanted to know how and if that experience would differ. Of course, La Boheme was only three shows a week and now he is fully embracing the show with seven shows. Did the fact that he is a lot more well known now factor at all? The answer was definitely not, Alfie said “although I’m a little more well known than I was back then I’m not focused on that. I’m focused on doing the job, doing it properly, performing each show I’m in to the highest standard”. Judging by the rave reviews, Alfie is doing a great job in New York.
Talking about the differences and the challenges of returning to the show naturally led us on to Alfie’s time in the West End. I’d forgotten (no idea how!) that Alfie had been in the show for a couple of weeks prior to the 25th anniversary show at the O2. Alfie said that he had had a great experience, loved every minute of his new venture into the world of musicals as he’d not really done much in the West End before that. He made friends immediately amongst the cast which as Alfie says was “a blessing, it stuck with me for a long time. They helped me, supported me in my interpretation of the role and character. A wonderful experience”.
Of course, performing an iconic role like Jean Valjean means a lot of pressure to be wonderful every night but also brings the opportunity to sing an incredible score every night which inevitably gets an incredible audience response. When asked to choose his favourite JVJ song, I felt that Alfie could easily have chosen them all and indeed mentioned the epilogue, the soliloquy and of course his signature tune, Bring Him Home. Alfie says “Bring Him Home is the song that everyone turns to but for me, one of the greatest moments to express true emotion and strength is towards the beginning of the show in the soliloquy. 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. Also, at the end of the show, the epilogue is a beautiful piece , when he’s realising he’s close to death, coming to the end of his life, I really enjoyed singing those moments too”. Here is Alfie at the Royal Variety Performance 2010:
Although JVJ is our focus here, Les Mis is a show full of outstanding songs so I was interested in asking the JVJ’s I interviewed if they had a favourite song by another character. Alfie chose Stars by Javert and revealed that he’s actually quite jealous that he doesn’t get to sing that song in the show himself! He also chose Norm Lewis as his favourite Javert, saying “I’ve heard it sung by so many Javerts but the one that sticks in my mind is Norm Lewis at the 25th anniversary and also Earl Carpenter [which is handy, seeing as he’s in the Broadway show!]. Those are the two guys who stick in ,my mind, their rendition of that song, very talented singers”.
Thanks Alfie for a lovely interview – I’ve quoted most of his answers without editing as I found I didn’t need to add or remove anything, his answers were perfectly eloquent by themselves.
The next JVJ interview is Dan Koek and you can find it on Monday 12th October.
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