Les Mis has passed it's 30th anniversary date and we are continuing to celebrate Club 24601 with our series of interviews with former Jean Valjeans. Today, it's the turn of Australian Dan Koek who played the role in 2013-2014.
Dan first heard about the possibility of playing JVJ in early 2013 when he was back in Australia getting ready to reprise his South Pacific role in Melbourne and Sydney. After an initial meet and greet audition, he then went through a total of nine auditions before he finally landed the role. However, he first served his JVJ apprenticeship as he calls it, starting in the ensemble for twelve weeks before the creative team were sure he would be ok in the role. Dan says that there were "a lot of notes after each performance" but after the first month or so he relaxed into the role more and that he just had to "make my own decisions about how to play the role". Fans have their favourite JVJ but Dan found he couldn't think about that although he was sometimes conscious of following on from other stars.
In common with all the other JVJ actors I spoke to, Dan said that the best thing about the role was the "sheer exhilaration of singing that amazing score everyday. I never tired of it." However, also in common with the other actors, the amazing score was also the worst thing about the role. Dan comments "the pressure is always to be amazing, especially if you're tired...it can start to eat away at you".
When I started this series of interviews I wanted to know how similar the experiences of being JVJ would be, in particular, would they all choose the same song as their favourite? Apart from Bring Him Home, of course, named as the "pressure song" by Dan, the most popular favourite song was the soliloquy. In Dan's case he chose it as it was "very satisfying from both an acting and singing point of view". On one occasion, however, the soliloquy was definitely not a good moment; in his first couple of weeks as JVJ, Dan was pretending to eat the bread before the soliloquy when a crumb shot up his nose and lodged in the back of his throat. To his horror, the crumb stayed there and audience members may have been impressed by the emotion apparently shown by the tears streaming down his face when in fact, it was just that piece of bread!
In terms of favourite songs by other characters, Dan chose Eponine's On My Own, mainly because of the incredible voice of his Eponine, Carrie Hope Fletcher. That is also my favourite song of the show, and Eponine is my favourite character too.
Earlier this year, Dan released his second album, High, after leaving the show last year. He would love to go back at some time in the future, Cameron Mackintosh said he "looked forward to bring him home" but left in order to further his recording career. As mentioned above, JVJ is very demanding, takes all the actor's energy and it was also Dan's fifth year of being in a long running musical, so time for a change.
Another reason for the change was the chance to make himself more employable and so the album, High is what Dan terms popera, pop with a classical twist as opposed to "someone like Alfie Boe who does more classical with a pop twist". The tracks work well together, with highlights being Remember Me (duet with Carrie Hope Fletcher) and Always and Forever. Of course, being a former JVJ, Bring Him Home features on the album - which is a duet with Jonathan Ansell.
This article first appeared on www.thoughtsofjustafan.com.