Tag Archives: Club 24601

Alfie Boe is Jean Val Jean – Les Mis Concert Review

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.

thanks for reading – please share!


John Owen- Jones Hit the Spotlight

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.

thanks for reading – please share


Timeless – The Voice of Dave Willetts

For fans of musical theatre, the name Dave Willetts is synonymous with the West End.  Over a career spanning more than thirty years, Willetts has appeared in many shows, including the lead in Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera.  He continues to perform in musicals around the UK and as befits an actor who was part of the original Les Mis production at the Barbican (understudy to Colm Wilkinson), Willetts more often than not, chooses to work with new musical projects.

Alongside this illustrious stage career, Willetts has also enjoyed success with a number of albums.  One such offering is Timeless, an album first recorded a while ago but only now finding it’s way into the mainstream, which for fans of rich, tenor voices and musical theatre alike, is nothing short of miraculous.  After all, we don’t often get the chance to hear new material from such a seasoned actor and singer.

I described Willetts as an actor and singer in that order as it happens to be the way he described himself when I interviewed him back in 2015 when we talked about Dave Willetts as Jean Valjean.  For him, this is the crucial distinction when performing in a musical.  It is somewhat of a surprise then to find that his back story has more in common with Alfie Boe than Michael Ball. Like Alfie, Willetts has a non performance background, working in engineering as a day job and relaxing through the medium of amateur productions. While performing in Charlie and Algernon at the Priory Theatre in the Midlands, Willetts was spotted by the art director of the Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre and after a successful audition, became a professional actor, with a first role in the chorus of Annie. Twelve months later he was in the West End with Les Mis and the rest, as they say, is history.

Timeless is a collection of songs that are exactly that; timeless.  Encompassing popular standards and songs from musical theatre, the album feels full of choices personal to Willetts and needless to say, they show off his vocal range and versatility to perfection.  This is a singer who through his vast acting experience, is able to convey warmth, tenderness, fun, pathos whilst also projecting enormous vocal power.

My favourite tracks are those from musical theatre, particularly I Dreamed You and This Is The Moment, from Tony Rees and Gary Young’s Jekyll and the Broadway production Jekyll and Hyde, respectively.  Willetts has worked with both shows and when I spoke to him in 2015, he was involved in writing the book for a further musical based on the Jekyll and Hyde story, The Man Inside, which has since had it’s premiere, Willetts of course taking the lead.

The majority of the other tracks are not from musicals and are such an eclectic mix that you have no option but to believe that these are personal choices.  Fun is the word that springs to mind when listening to You Took The Words Right Out and San Francisco Bay Blues – they would be great to listen to live.  Tears in Heaven and Smile allow Willetts to show his tender side while Bridge Over Troubled Water lets that rich tenor soar.  Leaving all this aside, the song I’ve taken away from this album is a duet, with Lara J West, on I Swear, a massive 1990’s hit for All4One.  As soon as you hear it, you’ll know it, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll love it.

Timeless is released on 2 February and is available for pre-order:

If you can’t wait that long, I have a copy to give away!  Just answer the following question – competition closes at Midnight on Sunday 21 January.

Which West End show did Dave Willetts star in after Les Mis?

This competition is now closed.

thanks for reading – please share!





Alfie Boe 3rd Annual Best Ever Song: No. 4

Number four in this year’s Alfie Boe Best Ever Song poll is a non mover from 2015 which means that it is time for Alfie’s most famous song, Bring Him Home (thanks Alfie for sharing):

Appropriately, the number four position in the 2016 poll coincides with the week that Les Mis celebrates its 31st birthday – Happy Birthday Les Mis!  And additionally, a Les Mis medley to include Bring Him Home is the lead track on Alfie’s forthcoming duet album with Michael Ball.

One of the reasons for the first best song poll was to showcase songs other than Bring Him Home and as the long list of nearly forty songs shows, I think we’ve done that.  Of course the problem with that 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.

Alfie’s autobiography, My Story, is available here:

alfie autobio

thanks for reading and sharing

if you like what you see, why not subscribe?

all your Alfie news straight to your inbox

plus 4 exclusive photos


2015: It Was A Very Good Year

Yes it was, a very good year for thoughtsofjustafan and for Alfie Boe too.  If I asked Alfie, his 2015 highlights might include Classic Quadrophenia and Les Mis on Broadway but I’m sure meeting loads of adoring fans at various UK and US concerts would also be right up there with the best moments.

For me, 2015 has been a series of fabulous moments one after the other – I can’t possibly choose one as the best although the first three on the list would certainly be competing for the top spot!

  • Interviewing Alfie for Classic Quadrophenia.
  • Interviewing Alfie again for the first in the Club 24601 series.
  • Chatting to Alfie at Somerset House and hearing him tell me that he reads thoughtsofjustafan…if Nikki Lewis hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have believed it!
  • Seeing my Classic Quad review from the Huffington Post quoted in a proper newspaper (the Guardian). The thank you from Alfie when I interviewed him shortly after was pretty special too. classic quad review
  • Addio Sogni di Gloria being voted the Best Alfie Boe Song (recorded) – last year’s favourite, Bring Him Home was number 4.
  • Taking my 9yo to Alive @Delapre for his first Alfie concert and hearing the stand out Alfie song from 2015, Run:

  • The Club 24601 series of interviews, beginning with Alfie and culminating with the current London JVJ, Peter Lockyer.
  • Interview with David Steadman, of the D’oyly Carte Opera Company and hearing about Alfie’s very first tour as a professional singer.
  • Finding out that the fan’s favourite Alfie Boe look is jeans, the tighter the better!  Alfie in a suit was a (very) close runner up.
  • Alfie in Les Miserables on Broadway – hearing the amazing reviews and happy fans was the next best thing to being there myself.

Thank you to everyone for reading and supporting thoughtsofjustafan – I really appreciate the time you take to comment on and share.  In February this year we passed 30,000 hits and thanks to all you wonderful readers, we have now more than tripled that number – woohoo!

Thank you too for all the wonderful compliments you have sent over the year, you are all very kind.

Of course, I can’t let 2015 pass without thanking some extra special people who have continued to support me and thoughtsofjustafan:

Thanks to Debbie Bannigan for giving me the best gift anyone can ever receive; belief and confidence that I can achieve whatever I want to.  Without your support, this blog would not exist.

Thanks to Linda Wellington for continually providing me with photos and videos and allowing me to use them.  Thank you also for all the laughs along the way this summer – and for ferrying us to Northampton!

Thanks to Carole Hunt for continuing to allow me to use her photo for the main blog banner.

Thanks to everyone who allows me to use their videos here – Nikki, Jayne, Annie in particular.

Thanks to Roberta Kappus and Carole Hunt for being fabulous reviewers this year – I hope to be able to call on you again lovely ladies!

Thanks to Sue Black, Linda Anstee and Marie Blair for being my top social media sharers this year – thanks for spreading the word!

Thanks to my top commenters in 2015 – Linda McCann, Sue Redfern and Carole Naden.  Love hearing from you!

Lastly, thank you to everyone who spoke to me at concerts this year and said they loved my blog – I love doing it!  Special thanks to the super posse of friends who, amongst others, made it extra special this year: Linda A and Linda W, Sally, Cecelia and Cassie (I’ll never forget your comments while waiting for the ladies at Hampton Court!), Paul and Pauline, Jan, Carole H, Sue, Pam and Tina, Nikki, Annie, Pauline H, Pat and Janet, Jayne, Deb and Flo.

thanks for reading and sharing!



Club 24601: Peter Lockyer is Jean Valjean

The end of the Club 24601 series is upon us and this week we feature the current London Jean Valjean, and the one who gave me the title, Peter Lockyer.  Although Lockyer was the first JVJ I spoke to, I left him until last in order to bookend with the current Broadway JVJ, Alfie Boe (Boe was our very first featured Club 24601 interviewee but the last to actually be interviewed!).  It just seemed apt.

Lockyer, it turns out, has considerable history with Les Mis but not on these shores.  His first Les Mis role was Marius in the 10th anniversary Broadway production and he also took this role when the show premiered in China – Colm Wilkinson was JVJ.  Roll forward a further ten years and Lockyer was directing an amateur production of Les Mis in Hawaii and there was considerable difficulty in not only casting but also retaining, an actor in the starring role so Lockyer took up the challenge.  Thus it was in an amateur production that he first played JVJ.  Shortly after this, Lockyer was approached by the Les Mis team with a view to playing JVJ on the 25th anniversary US tour and possibly in Toronto.  As we know, Toronto didn’t happen (the role went to Ramin Karimloo) but he was cast in the 25th anniversary tour and played in over fifty cities all over the USA.  The tour finished, life went on and then Cameron Mackintosh asked Lockyer to sing for him on Broadway – the audience also included Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, both of whom Lockyer had known and worked with in Miss Saigon amongst other projects.  He was then offered the part in London and is now well into his second year as JVJ.  Recently, Lockyer sang with John Owen-Jones, Geronimo Rauch and Colm Wilkinson at the 30th anniversary gala performance:

Locker says that the role of JVJ is “the best role in musical theatre – it goes through so much of life, everything is there on the stage”.  However, the iconic nature of the role and the music means that it can be quite daunting to think about.  To combat this, Lockyer tries to empty his mind of everything but JVJ before he steps on stage in order that the audience “only sees the story, not Peter Lockyer playing the role”.    Along with everyone else interviewed, Lockyer enthuses about the incredible score and how it has the power to move people just as much today as it did when it first opened.  In Lockyer’s words, “you can’t hear the opening chords of the show and not feel something”.

Aside from the comment about the role being too daunting if you thought about it too much, there is nothing that Lockyer dislikes about the show.  He also found it difficult to choose a favourite moment, plumping instead for all the little moments on stage such as Drink with Me for being part of the ensemble and the epilogue because it is so moving.

Thank you to all the Club 24601 participants – I’ve really enjoyed this series of interviews and listening to all the various versions of Bring Him Home.  Yes, I do have a favourite (after Alfie of course!) but I’m not going to tell you yet!  Please do leave a comment though to tell me your favourite.

thanks for reading – please share

if you like what you see why not subscribe?

all your Alfie info straight to your inbox

plus 4 exclusive photos


Club 24601: Simon Gleeson is Jean Valjean

The penultimate week of our Club 24601 series (I’ll have to find something else to write about now!) and we’re on to a Jean Valjean I saw in Melbourne in 2014.  Simon Gleeson has also recently been confirmed as JVJ for the new Les Mis production in Manila for 2016.

Gleeson initially came to the role through a regulation casting experience – he went through five rounds of auditions before ending up in front of Cameron Mackintosh and then it was another week or so before the role was offered to him.  He remembers the time as being very exciting as “there was a great buzz around the show as we hadn’t had it there for eighteen years”.  The production was also very different as the Australian Les Mis is the same as that on Broadway.  I saw this show with a fellow Alfie’s Arrow, Margie, her husband, Troy and fabulous (non Alfie) friends Erin and Rob and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Margie and Troy will, no doubt, be seeing the show again when it visits Brisbane shortly.

Gleeson says that he was initially overwhelmed” in the role but this quickly subsided and he relaxed more and more into it,  something that will surely help him when he opens the show in Manila next year.  Multiple opening nights (the Australian show is a touring production) must surely help with this.

In common with some of the other interviewees, Gleeson’s most enjoyable aspect of the role is sharing the scope of the story with an audience.  As he says, it’s “nice to share a lifetime” with the audience although inevitably, that is also the most challenging part of the show too.

Although all the JVJ’s named Bring Him Home as the most challenging and best song to sing in the show, only a couple, including Gleeson, didn’t choose a second favourite.  Here is Gleeson’s version, Bring Him Home starts at 2.20:

As far as having a favourite song by another character, Gleeson joined Peter Karrie in choosing Empty Chairs and Empty Tables.  A very moving song, particularly coming where it does in the show.

Thank you to Simon Gleeson and Les Mis Oz for arranging this interview. Next week sees the last in our Club 24601 series and we end with the current London JVJ, Peter Lockyer.

thanks for reading – please share!

if you like what you see, why not subscribe?

all your Alfie info straight to your inbox

plus 4 exclusive photos




Club 24601: Hans Peter Janssen is Jean Valjean

Club 24601 is still going strong and this week’s Jean Valjean fact is that this week’s interviewee is not only the only Belgian to take the role in London but he also came back twice to play Javert!

Hans Peter Janssen is one of the longest serving JVJ’s, doing three years (consecutively) from 2000 – 2003.  Before that, he played JVJ in the Belgian production of Les Mis from 1998 – 1999 which stood him in good stead when it came audition for the London production.

As Janssen played the role for a long time there must have been things he liked more than others and he said that one of his favourite parts was the ageing involved: “I found it challenging to build in growing older during the performance, vocally, physically and emotionally”.   When asked about the downsides he didn’t hesitate to say the back problems caused by, amongst other things, carrying Marius around as he said “not all Mariuses are lightweights”!  Major back surgery was required, necessitating a two and a half month back from the role.

As already mentioned, one of Janssen’s favourite parts of the show was the ageing and he says that the longer he was in the role, the more he came to understand the more mature JVJ and consequently, his approach became much more mature.  Leading on from this, his favourite song to sing in the show is Bring Him Home, which of course was the answer given by all the members of Club 24601 (although most also chose a second favourite).  In the following video you can see how much he immerses himself in the song:

Janssen’s favourite song by another character is Javert’s suicide because of the drama involved – and I guess that having played both roles, he is uniquely placed to know!  The following video is audio only but features Janssen singing Javert’s masterpiece, Stars:

Since leaving the show, Janssen has continued to perform in musicals around Europe, mostly in Belgium and the Netherlands.  He will shortly be in Lilies.

Next week’s Club 24601 is Geronimo Rauch.

thanks for reading – please share!

if you like what you see why not subscribe?

all your Alfie info straight to your inbox

plus the chance to win another Alfie goodie bundle – soon!

plus 4 exclusive photos




Club 24601: Dave Willetts is Jean Valjean

Week five in our study of Jean Valjean over the last thirty years and we come to our earliest and only original cast member, Dave Willetts.  Willetts was in the ensemble at the Barbican and also understudied Colm Wilkinson, taking over the role when Wikinson went off to the Broadway production.

Although I enjoyed interviewing all the JVJ’s for this series of posts, one of the most fascinating was with Willetts due to his extraordinary back story.  I was completely unaware that until a chance meeting with the artistic director of the Belgrade Theatre, Willetts was happily enjoying life as an engineer, only performing in amateur productions.  As he tells it, he had no ambitions to be a professional actor or singer, he just relaxed by performing in amateur dramatics and singing with  a jazz trio, in a dance band and in folk clubs.  However, that changed when he was offered an audition for a professional production of Annie which was successful and he was then cast in the chorus.  Twelve months on from that, he attended an open audition for Les Mis, was called back for a second audition, which was lucky for Willetts as he only went to the first one in the hope of seeing Trevor Nunn who wasn’t there.  Happily, he was there for the second audition, as were the writers, who upon hearing him sing Lucky Be A Lady, then handed him the music to the soliloquy and said ‘away you go with that’.  He was of course cast and went on to play amongst other West End roles, the Phantom.  Since then, he has appeared in the the 10th anniversary Sydney production and directed many schools productions.

Willetts remembers the whole experience, from the rehearsals to the performances themselves, as being the best bits of the show.  Creating the show from the ground up was exciting, meeting Pavarotti backstage was even more so.  Singing Bring Him Home was again special, as Willetts says “those bottle moments, those moments you put away in a bottle and every now and again you take the cork out and look at them”.  All these moments ensured that the rest of his career happened, singing with Tony Bennett for example would never have happened without Les Mis.

As with all the other interviewees, I asked Willetts about the worst aspects of JVJ or any disasters that has befallen him.  His response was “how long have you got?  In the early days there were loads” which I suppose is typical of a new production, especially one that used a revolving stage.  One of Willetts’ most memorable disasters was the stage getting stuck at the end of the barricade scene and all the dead actors who were supposed to get off stage without being seen had to get up and walk off in full view of the audience.  Far from ruining the show though, these experiences enhanced the entire evening for the audience.  As Willetts says, it’s the “beauty of live theatre”.

Along with Alfie Boe, Dan Koek, Peter Karrie and Geronimo Rauch, Willetts’ favourite song to sing in the show is the soliloquy and broadly for the same reason: the journey of the character within the song.  Willetts said “there’s not many roles written like that”.  Uniquely, Willetts’ favourite song by another character is Master of the House because of where it comes in the show and it’s a “barnstormer” in Willetts’ words.

Willetts has recently played God in the tour of Love Beyond, the complete story of the bible and as he said to me “there’s nowhere to go from there”!  However, he has also co-written a couple of musicals, J’accuse, (the life of Emile Zola) and The Man Inside, an adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde.   His most recent album, Once in A Lifetime, features songs from both these.

Next week’s Club 24601 JVJ is Hans Peter Janssen.

thanks for reading – please share!

if you like what you see why not subscribe?

all your Alfie info straight to your inbox

plus the chance to win more Alfie and Les Mis goodies!

not forgetting 4 exclusive photos




Club 24601: Peter Karrie is Jean Valjean

Fourth in our series of Club 24601 interviews is our earliest Jean Valjean so far, Peter Karrie.  As well as JVJ, Peter is most associated with the title role of Phantom of the Opera, a distinction he shares with three other JVJ interviewees (John Owen-Jones, Geronimo Rauch and Dave Willetts).  He is also the second Welshman in succession to feature in our Club 24601, following John Owen-Jones last week.

Peter first played JVJ from 1986 for three years and returned twice more.  He first got the role after auditioning whilst appearing in the first national tour of Evita.  The musical director of the show went to see Rebecca Storm in Liverpool (where Evita was at the time) with a view to casting her as Fantine.  Upon seeing Peter in Evita, he also asked him to audition and he duly did, around the piano in the foyer of a Liverpool hotel.  He then repeated the process on the stage of the Palace theatre in London and was cast a week later.  During all this time he had not met Cameron Mackintosh and when  he did finally meet him, on his opening night, it was a rather unfortunate meeting to say the least.  After the show, Peter was in his dressing room with his family when there was a knock at the door and this man stood there telling Peter how much he had enjoyed the show and invited him to dinner.  Peter politely declined…only finding out the next day that the man was Cameron!

As the most experienced JVJ in this series of interviews, I asked Peter how his approach changed each time he revisited the role.  He said that it was like “slipping back into a pair of old slippers because I got on so well with the role”.  When he first took on the role and was in rehearsals, the role just wouldn’t click; something just wasn’t right until one day he found the inspiration.  After a particularly bad journey, in the rain, Peter said that “he walked into rehearsals trudging along” and that’s when he realised that the key to his portrayal would be a heavy footed trudge, “walking as if he was pulling a truck behind him”.  That was the key to Valjean’s character.

Obviously, with such a long run as JVJ, there would be many other cast changes and new actors to work closely with.  One actor who really sparked with Peter was Philip Quast, who in Peter’s words was “the best Javert I ever worked with”, although if you had been present in their first ever rehearsal, you might be forgiven for wondering how it would turn out.  Peter described to me how after a while in the role he had his own way of doing things and Quast came in and made it abundantly clear that he had his own ideas about the relationship between the two characters which led to some interesting rehearsal moments but some fabulous moments for the production.  The confrontation in the sewer, where Javert eventually stands to one side to let JVJ and Marius pass, was one such moment: in rehearsal, Quast was adamant that Peter would have to force his way past, whereas Peter was equally adamant that it was not right for the character and the story.  Quast eventually came round to Peter’s way of thinking and Javert continued to move aside at the vital moment.

In common with all the actors I interviewed, Peter mentioned the amazing score as the best thing about the role; it was challenging both musically and as an actor, “a very satisfying role”. This is reflected in his choice of favourite song, which (apart from the obligatory Bring Him Home) is the soliloquy.  Peter said that “musically, dramatically, everything was in that song”.  He went on to say that the role was “always emotional.  I never cried during the show even though I could hear the audience sobbing, crying but at the end of the show I would burst into tears, every time.”

Given that Peter is our longest serving JVJ, I couldn’t resist the temptation to ask about any disasters or funny moments that occurred in the show and he obligingly told me about “one Javert who made me corpse”.  After one cart scene, just before JVJ launches into Who Am I?, the Javert in question, turned his back in the audience, clicked his heels together and was supposed to then make his exit.  He did make his exit but not before he said (knowing full well that only Peter could hear him) “if you don’t have that cart moved, I’ll have it clamped”.  Peter said he laughed so much he had to feign a coughing fit and ran off stage to compose himself!

Lastly, Peter’s favourite song by another character was Empty Chairs and Empty Tables as it’s a “very poignant, very emotive song”.

Here is Peter singing in Les Mis Medley from 2011:

Club 24601 returns next week with an original cast member, Dave Willetts.

thanks for reading and sharing

if you like what you see, why not subscribe?

all your Alfie Boe info straight to your inbox

plus 4 exclusive photos