Opera star Alfie Boe goes into 'special role' on Broadway

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — That familiar feeling of being hunted has returned for Alfie Boe: He's about to be Broadway's latest Jean Valjean.

The English tenor takes over the part of Prisoner 24601 from Ramin Karimloo in "Les Miserables" on Tuesday, four years after Karimloo replaced him as Valjean in the West End.

"It's been a while but the role hasn't left me. He's still there," Boe said after a recent rehearsal. "My mind feels a little bit mashed at the moment but it'll come untangled, I'm sure."

Valjean is a special role for Boe, one that raised his profile when he sang it in 2010 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the musical.

"That was the moment that turned my career around," he said. "It's something that I'll respect for the rest of my career, something I hold very dear to my heart."

Boe is an unusual sort of opera star, one comfortable in a T-shirt, beard and leather jacket. He drives a Harley, loves Led Zeppelin and has been a drummer since he was 12.

"I joined a lot of rock bands, grew the hair and got the earring and wore stupid '80s clothes," said Boe, the youngest of nine from a working-class family who now spends half the year at his home in Utah.

He's no musical snob, either, enjoying an eclectic mix of styles. Growing up, music at family dinners would go from Pink Floyd to opera to Glen Miller.

"I don't think there's any difference between an aria by Mozart and a Rolling Stones song. They both can be beautiful musically and technically," he said.

"The only difference is that the notes are in a different order. Music is music. Music has the same language — it's the same dots. It's just what order you put them in."

Classically trained at the Royal Opera House, Boe was spotted by super-producer Cameron Mackintosh and invited to the "Les Miserables" anniversary concert in London in front of 28,000 people.

"I'm not a musical theater singer. I'm not from this world. I cheated my way in, I think," he said. "I'm a firm believer that the roles find you. You don't go out to find them. They come knocking on your door. And this one definitely did."

Boe delivered a stunning version of the song "Bring Him Home" but was so deep into the moment and the character that he blocked out the thundering applause.

"It went by in a flash. I wasn't there. It was like I was in a bubble," he said. "It was really weird. It was like I was protected in this little bubble."

Laurence Connor, who co-directed the "Les Miserables" now on Broadway with James Powell, said the concert was a "big leap" for Boe that led to a "new love."

"He was being introduced to a world that he didn't really realize he could be a part of and one that he sort of enjoyed more in many ways," Connor said.

Thanks to the exposure, Boe got a record deal and an arena tour of the UK. He would go on to sing for the Royal Variety Performance, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee concert and the Olympics. This year, he headlined a concert and album that symphonically reimagined The Who's "Quadrophenia."

Boe cemented his connection with "Les Miserables" by joining the West End production and came up with a clever way to keep himself channeling Valjean, who serves many years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread.

Boe kept his convict's brown muddy socks on throughout the show even after his character becomes a respected mayor. "It was silly little thing but it made sense for me," he said.

Might he do the same on Broadway?

"I don't know if I have socks this time," Boe said, laughing.




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