It’s funny how you can go from not watching a show at all to being a regular within a couple of months.
When Alfie Boe joined Les Miserables I started watching the show on a monthly basis. For most people that is quite a lot already. But trust me, it’s nothing compared to the amount of times I will be seeing the show in the next 3 months. And the reason for that is simple: Ramin Karimloo is the ultimate Jean Valjean. I’m not a Les Mis expert and I’m sure some of you will disagree but that’s how I see it. Ramin’s portrayal of Jean Valjean is diverse and moving and quite simply stunning.
After I heard him sing “Bring him home” on his “A night with the Phantom” tour I thought he needed to play that part one day. Anything else would have been such a loss to the world of theatre. I even told him so after the concert in Manchester – my face when his stint in Les Mis was announced just a short time later must have been a picture.Sadly I couldn’t be there for Ramin’s first night as Valjean (work can be really annoying sometimes, don’t you think?!). So I did what people expected from me – after all everyone knows I’m a huge supporter of Ramin and his work – and booked a short weekend trip to London to do the Les Mis double on his first Saturday in the show.
First of all, watching a show like that twice in one day is tough simply because the show is not an easy, feel good piece of theatre. It’s an emotionally draining story. And on top of that we are talking about 3 hours each – there is no seat in the world that is comfortable enough for that.
My biggest fear about Ramin in the part was the age thing. I just couldn’t imagine a guy in his early thirties looking and acting convincingly as an old man. But Ramin was aged so well! One could easily believe it was a fragile old man on stage at the end of the show both from his looks and his acting.
As I had been expecting Ramin’s Valjean is very emotional and extremely physical.
I loved Alfie Boe in the part (I’ve always had a thing for big voices) but Ramin’s Valjean is in another league. That is acting and singing on the highest level and completely spot on from beginning to end.
Most people will say I’m biased. I probably am, I admit that. But biased or not biased, I’m definitely able to tell when I’m seeing something special on stage. And I did at the Queen’s Theatre last Saturday.
It is rare for an actor to transport every feeling from anger to hurt, from despair to happiness without even saying a word. Ramin does just that and with that he manages to make me feel for his character.
I will openly admit I’m not a huge fan of “Love never dies” as a show itself. The reason I watched that show various times was Ramin’s portrayal of the Phantom (although the person who first made me see the show was the lovely Dean Chisnall).
I’m so glad to finally be able to see him play such a complex and interesting character as Jean Valjean. Yes, the Phantom in “Love never dies” has some beautiful songs and it is an emotional part. But Jean Valjean is so much more. It’s a character that goes on a journey both in the literal sense and emotionally. And it does take a really talented performer to draw the audience in and take them along on said journey. And one must not forget the part is vocally demanding as well. To play that part six times a week must be tough. On the other hand it probably is one of the most rewarding part to play for a performer as well because it is so well written and you get to sing all those beautiful songs.
I simply adore the intensity of Ramin’s portrayal. He’s one of the few actors I know that never rests on his achievements. And that means none of his performances is ever the same. He constantly develops the character he plays and will change the tone of his performance from day to day. It almost scares me to think of how amazing he will be once he has settled into the role more over the next few weeks. I was an emotional wreck after seeing those two shows on Saturday and this was only his first week as Valjean. Plus I can imagine seeing him and Hadley Fraser on stage together must be even more intense. I shall check if I’m right about that on the 16th. Don’t get me wrong though, I do think Shaun Dalton did a great job as Javert. It’s just that Ramin and Hadley always work so well on stage together.
So please show your support and see Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean. He even shows off a proper beard now – that alone should be reason enough to get a ticket for the show! 😉
Les Miserables is playing at the Queen’s Theatre. For more information and to book tickets go to http://www.lesmis.com
I’m definitely doing a more detailed review after I’ve seen the show a few more times. At the moment I’m too overwhelmed to collect my thoughts properly. But trust me on this: Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean is something you do not want to miss. His performance is stunning and I’m once more convinced that this guy is one of the most talented people I have ever been lucky enough to see on stage.