Les Mis

All posts tagged Les Mis

Alfie Boe’s one off show on the Isle of Man was this week and regular reviewer, Cecelia Powell, was there for us.

On Tuesday 6th November some good pals and I trampled through lashing, windswept rain in Douglas, Isle of Man to the Villa Marina hall in all its Edwardian grandeur for what was billed as ‘An Evening with Alfie Boe’. Half the fun of an Alfie concert is meeting up with old friends and making new. Once you’re hit by the Alfie bug, you never know where he’s going to take you – musically, or for that matter, geographically! There were fewer familiar faces and the audience was predominately Manx residents, but there was a real buzz in the air. With a new album coming out, none of us was sure exactly what was to come.

The audience was warmed up by the talented Lauren Samuels, who treated us to musical theatre songs and the music of Burt Bacharach, ending her set with, what else, Bacharach’s Alfie.  After the break, four men walked on stage: Ross (the brilliant pianist who accompanied Alfie on his recent radio tour), Pete (the wonderful Australian guitarist who joined Alfie’s band for the summer concerts), Murray, (Alfie’s MD whom we’ve all learned to know and love) and the man himself. That was it. No backing singers, no horns, no drums. So from the beginning we knew we this was going to be a different performance to what we’ve been used to of late. Just four superbly talented men seated on a stage in a darkened concert hall. Dressed semi-casually in black trousers and jacket, with a white shirt hanging out and a pair of clunky boots, Alfie almost immediately asked for some lights to be turned on in the hall so that he could see the audience. And so the concert began.

First came a few of the new New Orleans jazz songs that have been trickling out from the new album: Sing, Sing, Sing, followed by Minnie the Moocher and Stompin at the Savoy, ending with The Way You Look Tonight. But these weren’t the big production numbers that we’ve been hearing from the album. The whole feel was much more intimate, much more inclined to draw you into the feel of that smoky jazz club where the music was originally heard. For these numbers, and throughout, Alfie contributed to the musical arrangements with a tambourine. People weren’t up dancing in the aisles, but feet were tapping, hands were clapping and the focus was entirely on the man and his music. The diamond in his pocket, Bring him Home, had to come, but he preceded it with a few cheeky bars from Master of the House because there had to be a bit of banter – like the fact that he’d dressed up as Jean Valjean for Halloween wearing his jacket from Les Mis, and everyone thought he was The Greatest Showman!

A short break for people to get drinks and refreshments was followed by a selection of Neapolitan tunes. The sublime Parlalmi D’Amore Mariu from La Passione was followed by Serenata’s Mama, Volare and Mambo Italiano, and he left the stage to Buona Sera, which left us feeling like we’d all been kissed. There was banter, there was audience participation, but it was more the feel of being at a private party than at a concert.

Another short break, and we were treated to a folk/country section. First, Keep Me in Your Heart in the heart-wrenching way it’s sung on the album. But, of course, there had to be some audience participation on those Sha La La Las. When it came time to get the men to sing, and a voice cried out “Bring it on!” Alfie had the perfect foil. Little did Alfie know that Lester was a music teacher, and he not only joined in with the singing but belted out an accompaniment on the piano! Tom Petty’s evocative Wildflower came next, and then The Old Crow Medicine’s Show’s Wagon Wheel. Now this is a number that really allows his accompanists to shine, but there was ample time throughout the evening to let the musicians showcase their talents with fabulous guitar riffs and almost ragtime piano solos. This was topped off by a version of Guns & Roses’ Sweet Child of Mine. Not a rock star version, but one that was packed with so much raw emotion and longing it left me breathless. The Together albums that he recorded with Michael weren’t to be forgotten, of course. First Hero and A Thousand Years, and then He Lives in You, Pete joining in brilliantly on the vocals. The set ended with Run, for which Alfie called Lauren Samuels back on stage to join him. And then came the encore of Elton John’s Rocket Man. An extraordinary performance that took me up to the stars.

Over the course of the evening, there was plenty of interaction with the audience in his own inimitable northern style, including comments aimed directly at Manx residents that drew much laughter. My favourite was a story of his visit to the island as a ten-year-old lad on a school camping trip, on which the nuns kept the children in order by relaying tales of the “Moddey Dhoo”, a phantom dog said to haunt Peel Castle. And there was a collection taken up at the end of the evening for a hospice on the island, of which he is an ambassador and had visited that morning.

The man can sing absolutely anything so, unlike most performers, he attracts fans with very disparate tastes in music. Luckily for me, I love the man in all his musical guises. He can be any of them, or all of them. For me it’s all about the voice and where that voice takes me, and believe me I travelled a lot of miles that night! For this one night, we were treated to something that I found very, very special, and who knows if it will ever be repeated. Most of the songs were entirely delivered seated. There was power, but it was controlled. There was no razzle dazzle, no gimmicks, no distractions. The songs were stripped down to the bone. I heard things in familiar songs that I’ve never heard before and, as always, they were sung note perfect. It was like having a private gig with the man. I was sitting in packed concert hall, but it felt like he was singing directly to me. This really was Alfie unplugged, and for me the evening was magical. I was wrapped up in a musical bubble and floated out of the hall. In fact, I don’t think I’m still quite down on terra firma yet. For me, this concert was billed exactly right. We were treated to an evening with Alfie Boe, and I feel blessed to have been there.

What a fabulous review Cecelia and I’m sure I speak for many fans when I say that I wish I had been there.

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Just three more weeks of the poll to find out your favourite Alfie Boe recorded song – and we come to his signature tune, Bring Him Home:

Bring Him Home is of course a constant in Alfie’s live performances and in this annual poll; twice being voted number one and never being lower than number four.  So much has been written about Alfie and this song (quote a lot of it by me!) and it’s always a challenge to come up with something new to say about it, so this time, I’ll let Alfie do the talking with an extract from his autobiography, My Story.  Alfie is talking about his life changing appearance at the Les Mis 25th anniversary concert:

I knew that Bring Him Home would be my moment, the golden key.  I knew that was it.  ‘Boy needs a song!’  It’s incredible, how that song came to me again, after our false alarm with the Festival of Remembrance.  We knew that was the one, but it disappeared, and we didn’t think of it again until Cameron Mackintosh knocked on the door.  And it is such a spiritual song, it’s so special.  When Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil write it they must have been excited.  They must have known they had something special…Herbert Kretzmer was really stumped with the lyrics, he didn’t know what words would fit to these three syllable lines.  The John Caird, the co-director, said the melody sounded like a prayer, and Herbert wrote it overnight.  It is a prayer, it’s acutally 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.

Beautiful words from Alfie – and for those who don’t know, Alfie sang Bring Him Home at the Festival of Remembrance in 2007 and Harvey Goldsmith said, “boy needs a song” after the performance.  It just took a few more years to really get hold of it!

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Ball and Boe were back together this weekend at Carfest South, first time for Michael but a return for Alfie – he last played this festival for Children in Need in 2013.  Regular reviewer Claire Shorter was there for us, as well as fellow fan Caroline Old:

Do you think they will like us? That is the question Michael asked Chris Evans before they went on stage……fast forward to the end of their set and the rapturous applause and cheers suggests the crowd didn’t just like the boys, they absolutely loved them. This was echoed by the number of backstage guests who flowed to the front of the stage (including Chris Evans).

Michael and Alfie’s set was after Reef and Miles Kane and before Razorlight and although their style is different to those bands, the audience was just about to find out Ball and Boe can turn their hands to any genre they choose and the set list at CarFest showed their diversity, talent, humour and all round awesomeness.

Michael and Alfie came out singing Tonight, they were beaming and appeared so happy to be back on stage together. Then it was For Once in My Life and You’ll Be Back; the way they interact during these songs is nothing but cute and Alfie also came down to the barriers for a singalong with the crowd. Next were great songs to get the audience involved – He Lives in You and You’re the Voice. For the last chorus Alfie got Chris Evans and some others on to the stage to join in and they were loving every minute.

When the Queen medley commenced, we were treated to A Kind of Magic, Radio Gaga, We Will, We Will Rock You and We are the Champions. They put so much energy into this medley and the audience were loving it as much as Ball and Boe were, on stage.  This was a high point for seven year old Dan (Caroline’s son) who said that “I loved We Will Rock You, I was on Daddy’s shoulders.”

We then heard the boys do their brilliant Les Mis medley: Bring Him Home, Empty Chairs, I Dreamed a Dream and One Day More.  We have never heard an audience sing along to Les Mis as much as they did that day and standing in a field it felt like an appropriate place to do it. The whole audience singing One Day More was incredible, a proper goosebumps moment.

Then it was time for the encore, Michael making sure Alfie had left the stage made a start with A Different Corner.  Alfie then appeared on the adjoining stage saying “Oi Bally, get off the stage…”, he then stripped down to his ‘Choose Life’ T-shirt, gave Michael his and then the party time started with a Wham medley including Freedom, I’m Your Man and Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.   Chris Evans and a group backstage crew, family and friends returned to the stage having a great sing along and pulling out some cracking dance moves. Alfie was having a high kick contest with a couple of kids. It was great fun to watch them all having a blast.

Although we also love the boys performing solo this is a reminder that we need another combined tour, they are a perfect match and their talent, friendship and humour is a beautiful thing to witness. They love being on stage together and we love seeing them there.

Thanks for a fabulous review Claire, Caroline and Dan, who gets the last word: “It was so funny when Alfie told Michael to get off the stage!”

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Summer is here and it’s another chance to look at Alfie Boe’s fabulous repertoire, with Joan Mould’s Six Sensational Songs.  Joan first became aware of Alfie at the Royal Variety Show and until Kenwood recently, had yet to see Alfie live.  Hope you enjoyed it Joan!  Here are Joan’s choices.

Bridge Over Troubled Water, from Storyteller.  Joan heard this on iTunes and thinks it’s “the best version I’ve ever heard”.  I’m with you there, Joan!

Run, from the VE Day celebrations, is the fans favourite live song by a long way, winning the annual best live Alfie Boe song every year since 2015.

Bring Him Home.

In My Daughter’s Eyes, for Joan’s two grown up daughters.

Keep Me In Your Heart – my favourite!

Empty Chairs and Empty Tables, with Nick Jonas, Marius from the Les Mis 25th Anniversary concert.

Thanks Joan for letting us hear your six sensational songs.

If you would like to see your choices featured here, please fill in the form:

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A summer evening – albeit a chilly evening – was spent in the grounds of Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath, London in the company of Alfie Boe and his fabulous band, not to mention fabulous friends in the form of Linda A, Linda W, Jayne, Cecelia, Roberta, Annie, Pauline, Jean and Claire.

Alfie’s set was almost the same as at Kelvingrove and Fleetwood, with a couple of differences and at least one new addition, to the encore.  Led Zeppelin’s Going To California was a new song, and Linda W was in seventh heaven (listen carefully and you can hear her gasps of delight at the beginning):

Alfie was, as usual, in fine voice and had all the energy you might expect from a performer at the top of his game and clearly having the time of his life.  I seem to write that sentence fairly often these days, but with every new concert, he just gets better and better and to me, it seems that he never takes his good fortune for granted, which unfolds as seemingly relentless energy on stage.  Just watching the energy on stage exhausts the audience, never mind Alfie himself!

Highlights were The Way You Look Tonight from his forthcoming album, Bring Him Home (very emotional this time), The Who section, particularly Pinball Wizard and the country section.  I love all those songs and having only discovered Wagon Wheel last year, via Alfie, I especially love the joy the band bring to that song.  The songs from Together and Together Again had the crowd singing along and of course we celebrated Ball and Boe’s double BRIT win too. However, the undoubted stand out song was Bring Me Sunshine; Alfie was joined on stage by the children of the Rays of Sunshine choir and they were magnificent:

They were all wonderful and I’m pleased to say that the audience were able to help bring joy and laughter into the lives of seriously ill children by giving to the collecting buckets available.  If anyone wasn’t able to give at the concert and would like to help, click here to donate.

I’m happy to say that I saw Alfie before the show and he obligingly signed some more competition bits so make sure you’re a subscriber to get first dibs on entries – coming soon!

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A few weeks ago, in response to fan photos of meet and greet opportunities with Alfie Boe, we looked at two stories in more depth.  In a second instalment, here are two more stories, from Cathy Rogers Sarabia (my birthday twin) and Julie Connolly.  Here is Cathy’s story:

I’ve met Alfie several times at stage doors and M&Gs, and he always shows up smiling, courteous, generous, and so funny! My first time was in London for his birthday party back in 2011, before Les Mis at The Queens Theatre and after we sang to him, he recommended we work on our singing. The last time was in NYC at The Metropolitan Opera House after Classic Quadrophenia, and when he flashed me that smile of recognition and waved to my daughter hiding in the back, my heart nearly melted. In between those two times were, I don’t know 10 or 11 more meetings, from Broadway theatres, to nightclubs, concert halls, Opera Houses, bookstores; and every time he amazes me with his kindness to fans and seeming shock and surprise that he is loved so much by so many people. I think my favourite picture with Alfie is from Frederick, Maryland back in 2013. It was a spontaneous decision to stay after that concert and sometimes no preparation is the best preparation!

 

The second story is from Julie in 2015:

My son shared a house with one of Alfie’s nephews. He took me back stage at Leeds Millennium Square. Alfie saw me, stood up and came straight over to talk to me. He was lovely, polite and friendly. I will never forget it!

 

What fabulous stories ladies – and equally fabulous photos too!

If you would like to see your own story featured here, fill in the form:

Please send an accompanying photo to admin@thoughtsofjustafan.com.

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Earlier this year, we looked at the pleasures of meeting Alfie Boe and it was so much fun to see so many photos of Alfie’s lovely fans.  On the back of that, I asked you to send in your photos and experiences of meeting Alfie and you didn’t disappoint!

Starting us off are two ladies who shared photos with Alfie at a stage door and the Trust album signing in London.  Kate Griffin first ran into Alfie at the Les Mis stage door and this is what she says:

My very first meet with Alfie was quite by chance at the stage door when he appeared in Les Mis. My husband and I travelled to London to see the show and happened to be passing the back of the theatre prior to the show. As we walked by we spotted Alfie on the other side of the street as he dived in to a bar! We thought that was it and he was gone but he must have been looking for someone as he immediately came back out again and crossed the street toward us. I was so excited as I think you can see in my face! He was quite happy to spend a minute or two chatting and posing! I’ve been so lucky to since have had two official meet and greets and another stage door greet at Carousel as well as the HMV signing last year. So I am truly blessed and lucky to be able to say I’ve met him a few times and had that arm around my waist for photos and seen close in to those gorgeous brown eyes!

The second story is from Lesley Armstrong and her photo is from the Trust album signing:

Lesley Armstrong HMV 2013

Lesley says

I have had the opportunity to meet with Alfie on many occasions, and he never fails to bring me joy as it’s a reminder of how hard he has worked to get to where he is today in his profession. He is the best opera singer Britain has ever produced, and is so humble & wonderful to his fans. He puts you immediately at ease and the tongue tie you feel disappears and you break into a huge smile just being around him. I am feeling less tongue tied the more I meet him trying to relax and just take in those rare special moments with him that seem to pass so quickly so touchable to be prepared if you wan’t to ask that specific question or get that special photo of you both together. Alfie is the only man who could make me travel the world just to see him; even for just 5 minutes I would be there to support him. He’s our treasure and a wonderful entertainer.

Thank you Kate and Lesley – treasured memories indeed!

There are still meet and greet packages available for Alfie’s solo UK shows – click here for details.

If you would like to see your own photo and story here, then please fill in the form!

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Shawn Alexander is the latest fan to choose her six favourite Alfie Boe songs  Shawn says that she “originally learned of Alfie through Michael Ball. I’m a big fan of Michael’s – then watching the Les Mis anniversary concert I was introduced to Alfie. With living in the states and in Florida I don’t have many opportunities to see shows. When Michael and Alfie were in NY I just HAD to go – I’m a single Mom, and I don’t spend foolishly but I just had to treat myself.”

These are Shawn’s choices, chosen simply because they are her favourites.

Love Reign O’er Me from Classic Quadrophenia – Shawn saw Alfie perform this in New York and it “moved me to tears”.

Along with Shawn’s first choice, Bring Him Home is the most popular song in this series, each having been chosen six times.

Someone to Watch Over Me

Maria, from West Side Story.

It Was A Very Good Year – this song provides one of the best moments on the DVD of the Bring Him Home tour, Alfie Live!

When I Fall in Love.

Yet again, I’m taken aback by the depth of Alfie’s repertoire – four of these six songs have not been chosen before!  If you would like to see your six songs featured, please fill in the form:

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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.

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The first Six Sensational Songs post for 2018 is from Karen Blower.  I first met Karen in a virtual sense on Twitter as we both had a love of Alfie Boe and also both blogged about music; Karen is also a huge Il Divo fan.  Karen first became aware of Alfie via the Royal Variety performance that featured him as part of the Les Mis medley and of course, since then, Alfie has graced that stage twice more.  Here are Karen’s choices:

Of course, Bring Him Home, from a few years ago and in Karen’s words, “enough said”.  No further reasons needed!

Tell Me It’s Not True, from the Together Again tour.  Karen chose this because “Blood Brothers is a favourite musical of mine and Alfie’s version of the iconic song is amazing, especially when sang with Michael Ball”.

It’s Over, from the Storyteller days.  Karen says that “I grew up listening to Roy Orbison and Alfie is one of only a few singers who can do proper justice to his songs”. Yes indeed, and I still love have a chuckle that Alfie opened his set with a song called It’s Over!

Over The Hills and Far Away, at the Festival of Remembrance in 2011.  This one gives Karen goosebumps – and I’m sure she’s not the only one!

Forever Young, again at the Festival of Remembrance, this time in 2013.  Alfie has of course appeared twice more in recent years, being, in Huw Edwards’ words, “a great friend of the festival”.  As with the previous choice, Forever Young is just beautiful and gives Karen goosebumps.

Finally, Love Reign O’er Me from Classic Quadrophenia, this time from the Together tour 2016.  Karen acknowledges that this is a popular song by saying “again, yes I know but the emotion and power he puts into this, how can you not put it on the list?”  Quite – it was on my list!

Thanks Karen for sharing your six songs with us – yet again, two new songs to add to the list!

If you would like to share your six favourite Alfie songs with us, please fill in the form below.

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