Alfie Boe first appeared on Broadway over ten years ago but he wasn't in a musical. As a young opera singer recently graduated from the Royal College of Music and the National Opera Studio, Alfie landed the part of Rodolfo in Baz Luhrmann's Broadway production of La Boheme, earning a Tony award in the process.
Fast forward to 2015 and Alfie has now returned to Broadway in the only professional role he has undertaken in musical theatre: Jean Valjean of Les Miserables. In the interim years, Boe has appeared all over the world in opera and his own concert tours but it is the role of Jean Valjean that made his name back in 2010. Of course, the occasion was the 25th anniversary production of Les Miserables at the O2 in London and Boe went on to play the role in the West End for a period of six months the following year. It was this that led to a frenzy of speculation about his possible involvement in the Broadway show when the revival was announced a couple of years later; the frenzy surrounding Boe's possible involvement dampened slightly when the role went to Ramin Karimloo but never really went away, hence the levels of excitement when it was announced earlier this year that Boe would take over from Karimloo (a neat turn around from Boe's London run as Karimloo took over there). Fans of Boe and the show alike were curious as to why he hadn't taken the role on Broadway earlier but as he made clear when I interviewed him (click here) earlier in the year, he just hadn't been asked (he also has a ridiculously busy schedule). Although Boe's appearance was hotly anticipated as one of the best Jean Valjean's this would be no walkover - Karimloo had been nominated for a Tony for his performance. Happily, Boe's return can indeed be described as triumphant as can be seen from this first night review.
Perfection or as close as you can humanly come to perfection is the only way to describe Alfie Boe's opening night performance in Les Mis Broadway. He seemed a little bit nervous at the very beginning but that quickly passed. When he first came on stage I was was very conscious that I was seeing Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean and that in itself was exciting but that quickly passed; at the end of the show I realised that at some point (I think when Alfie made his first appearance as mayor) I was no longer thinking in those terms. Instead I was watching Jean Valjean and not someone playing JVJ. It was an incredible performance.
Of course I expected the singing to be extraordinary and Alfie did not disappoint. He nailed every song and received a standing ovation for Bring Him Home. What took me by surprise was the absolutely brilliant acting. I was lucky enough to have front row seats and could see every expression crossing his face and there were many. From the anger at the injustice of his imprisonment to the tenderness displayed in the scene when he takes Cosette away. This scene touched me the most. Alfie was truly a father looking at his daughter and rejoicing in the life that would now be theirs. When he picked her up it was not just to dance with her. He tossed her in the air twice and caught her both times. And the expression on Alfie's face can only be described as a father looking with great love at his daughter. I wish I could have filmed that and replayed it here. It has to be seen.
Les Miserables is at the Imperial Theater, Broadway and Alfie Boe will perform until 28 February.
This review first appeared on www.thoughtsofjustafan.com.