Les Miserables

All posts tagged Les Miserables

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

 

 

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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:

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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

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll remember previous posts about the tremendous women I’ve met through following Alfie Boe, namely Margie in Australia and Roberta in NYC.  This post is about two fantastic friends, The Two Linda’s, both of whom featured in my last post about the Classic Brit Awards – and yes, I’m still floating around after that evening!

If you’re a fan of Alfie Boe that has ever searched YouTube for videos, you’ll almost certainly have seen one of Linda’s lovely videos.  We are extremely lucky that Alfie allows fans to film at his concerts and even luckier that such a talented camerawoman like Linda shares her videos with the wider world.

I first met Linda at the Bluewater book signing in September 2013 and was immediately welcomed with open arms as a fellow Alfie fan.  We have since been to several events and met up and had a great time – the Two Linda’s even came to my 40th birthday bash in September. I interviewed Linda (sounds a bit grand for what was just a chat really!) at the Classic Brits and she told me that her introduction to Alfie came through her love for Il Divo – I know, I can’t understand the attraction either! Although Linda had been aware of Alfie for a while (Parkinson and the Matt Lucas kitchen videos where her chief thought was how much a clean shaven Alfie looked like Declan Donnelly!), she didn’t think he was that special until some of her Il Divo friends from America were coming over to London to see him in Les Miserables at the Queens Theatre.  Linda went along and was absolutely hooked, eventually going to the show six times, including the legendary last performance. Since then, Linda has seen him at every available opportunity, including nearly all of the Storyteller shows.  My son is a keen Jellytots Linda fan, and it was him who gave her that name in order to differentiate from the other Linda.  Linda W is an avid consumer of jellytots!

Linda A is another very special friend who I first met over coffee when she and a friend came down to London to see the musical Rock of Ages. The meeting place gives you a inkling of how she came by her nickname of Costa Linda although we didn’t actually meet in Costa!  My son, as well as being a fan of Linda W is also a fan of Linda A and as Linda W is called jellytots Linda, Linda A is now Costa Linda as we met her in over coffee.  The actual conversation went something like this: “So are we meeting jellytots Linda or Costa Linda?”.

Although Linda and I had only tweeted and chatted online before, from that first meeting we just got on like the proverbial house on fire and have done ever since. We have since met up at non Alfie related events as well, although one such meet up resulted in our most unexpected Alfie moment. I met Linda at the stage door of the Queens Theatre where she had been to a matinee of Les Mis. We were chatting to a couple of other friends when Alfie suddenly appeared and just as quickly disappeared into the stage door – to say we were star struck is an understatement! We stood there yelling and waving but neither of us thought to ask him to sign anything or come out for a photo!   This is Linda’s Alfie story:
How did I first get into Alfe?
The date…3 October 2010, I was so excited! It was the 25th anniversary performance of Les Miserables at The O2 Arena, London. I’d had my ticket for months and had been waiting with great anticipation…. My one disappointment, why hadn’t they chosen someone like John Owen Jones or Simon Bowman for the role of Jean Valjean? After all they had both played the part to some acclaim at The Queens Theatre. Instead a virtual unknown to me, a tenor called Alfie Boe had got the part in this prestigious performance so I would reserve my judgement! Well there I was in my seat at the O2 waiting for Les Mis to begin. The overture started up …I felt the excitement in the pit of my stomach… … The performance began, Jean Valjean stood before the microphone and began to sing …….WOW!!!! Alfie Boe, what a voice! As the show progressed I found myself totally mesmerised by this wonderful man…Valjean’s Soliloquy, Who Am I, and of course the superb Bring Him Home…it wasn’t just his voice that that held me spellbound, it was his whole persona.
From that moment on I was well and truly BOED! I left the O2 floating on cloud nine determined to find out everything I could about this wonderful man!!! I bought every CD I could get my hands on, looked up You Tube clips etc, I couldn’t get enough. Then it was announced he was to play JVJ at the Queens. I became a regular visitor and met Alfie here for the first time. He was so humble and sincere at the SD, always happy to chat have photographs taken and spend time with those waiting to see him. It was here he won the hearts of many of us! Then of course he announced his Bring Him Home Tour…………. I booked quite a few…….
Why do I go to so many concerts?
That’s easy to answer…. I’m a great believer that you can never have too much of a good thing! At my first Alfie concert at The Birmingham Symphony Hall in December I also did a meet and greet. Alfie was so kind and charming, he looked genuinely interested in what I had to say, his attention was mine….if only for a couple of minutes! It was also at this concert I got to ‘sing’ on stage with him, I did warn him that I had an awful voice, he found that out soon enough and said to me “You really can’t sing can you?” I just fell about laughing…ever since there are those that call me ‘Can’t Sing Linda’ …… Thanks for that Alfie!!!
I have an absolute ball at Alfie’s concerts, the set list may be similar or even the same but at every show there are those special moments and incidents that happen from venue to venue…you never know what to expect!! You may be in fits of laughter one minute because of what Alfie has said or done and the next minute you find tears streaming down your face listening to him singing some wonderful moving song. I know it sounds like a bit of a cliché but I become so alive at Alfie’s concerts, I find myself totally engrossed in the whole experience. I never want it to end. Another reason for going to so many shows is the time spent with so many of the wonderful friends I’ve met through Alfie……
Friends made through Alfie…..
To say my life has changed since discovering Alfie is no exaggeration. I have made so many wonderful friends through him. Most of them I first ‘spoke’ to through social media then got to meet so many at The Queens when Alfie was appearing in Les Mis and of course at concerts. Other fans from all around the world, Australia (the lovely Margie!) America, Japan…etc. There are so many, far too many to mention by name but they all mean a lot to me! I would never have got to meet these people if it hadn’t been for Alfie and like all of us there are a few special friendships, I hope they know who they are!!! I just have to mention Jane, we got on from the word go!!! Have done silly fangirling together, celebrated together, confided in each other…… Alfie thank you so much! You are one very special guy!!!

My Alfie Boe story, like the Two Linda’s and many others, starts with another performer entirely: for me, Michael Ball.  I had been to see Michael in Sweeney Todd in London’s West End and was blown away by the show and Michael’s superb performance.  I went three times in all and after the second occasion, went home and looked him up on YouTube which led me to the Les Miserables 25th anniversary concert and then onto the Four ValJeans’s Bring Him Home.  As soon as I heard Alfie come in to the song at “You can take” I was completely smitten and poor Michael was soon forgotten! Sorry Michael xx

I then  googled Alfie Boe and came to his fansite (now gone).  I joined twitter and since then, it’s safe to say, my life has been completely different. I have made some amazing friends and spend a large proportion of my life fangirling about an amazing singer who also happens to be a really nice person. I bore my friends and family silly about him although some of them have given in and come to concerts with me or bought his albums.  Resistance is futile!