Q&A with renowned British tenor Alfie Boe - East Valley Tribune: Performance

Q&A with renowned British tenor Alfie Boe

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Posted: Friday, October 12, 2012 4:45 pm

Everyone loves a good rags-to-riches story like British tenor Alfie Boe’s.

The “Les Miserablés” star grew up in a large, musical family in Fleetwood, Lancashire, but he never had formal training. One day Boe was singing to the radio while working in a car factory in the north of England. A customer overheard him and suggested he audition for a London opera company.

“I’d never auditioned in my life,” said Boe. “I walked into the theater with people who were professional opera singers in suits, looking pristine. I was wearing my work gear — jeans, boots and a T-shirt — and all I could do was sing according to the best of my ability. I sang the only classical song my father had taught me,” he said.

They must have liked it because they asked him to join the tour.

Many years of intense musical and operatic training later, Boe was ready for America — and Broadway, where he won a Tony Award for his performance in “La Boheme” under the direction of Australian producer Baz Luhrmann. But it was really his magnetic performance as Jean Valjean in the PBS broadcast of the 25th Anniversary concert of “Les Mis” at London’s 02 Arena that catapulted him to international fame.

“I’m a firm believer that you don’t choose characters in your career, they choose you,” said Boe, who had never seen the show before he got the role. “The first time I actually sang the songs and listened to the music, it was almost like there was a flame ignited inside me,” he said.

“I’m a similar age to Jean Valjean when he came out of prison. The injustice that he suffered — I could feel it and everything that needed to be done to play that role and put the emotions (in it). It was an amazing feeling. It changed my life and changed me as a person.”

Those powerful emotions brought 25,000 people to their feet in applause when Boe sang “Bring Him Home” on that October night in 2010.

“When I was asked to do the job, I knew that would be the moment and that would be the song in the show that would change things,” Boe said. “When it came time to sing it, I was lost in the role and the story and words I was singing. I felt like I was in a bubble and was being protected. The only other time I felt that way was when my father died. It was almost like I was praying for my father in a way.”

Boe was so wrapped up in the moment, he didn’t notice that 25,000 people were applauding him. “When I realized what happened, I was amazed,” he said.

The former auto worker continues to land high profile gigs including Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee Concert this summer, where he performed alongside Elton John, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder.

Boe said the highlight of the event was meeting Wonder. “I didn’t know what to expect. I was in front of an icon. I was groveling like crazy when he said, ‘Hey Alfie, mate. You’ve got a great voice. We should do something together.’ Then I fainted,” said Boe.

That humility lends a winsome air to the singer, who makes his permanent home in the United States with his wife and two young children.

“I grew up listening to a lot of American music — ’50s music, old jazz and blues standards, Elvis, Sinatra and Martin. Those guys really made history and paved the path for a lot of musicians. I want people to be able to say that about me.”

IF YOU GO

What: The British tenor and star of the “Les Miserablés” 25th Anniversary concert performs.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13.

Where: Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino, 5040 Wild Horse Pass Blvd., Chandler.

Cost: $36-$102.

Information: (800) 946-4452 or www.wingilariver.com.

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