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Brief Encounter With ... Alfie Boe

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Alfie Boe is currently playing Jean Valjean in Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre, a role he also played in last year’s 25th anniversary concert at the O2 Arena.

His new album, Alfie, featuring collaborations with rock legend Robert Plant and original Marius Michael Ball, recently went straight into the pop charts at number six (for your chance to win a copy, see below).

Boe, who only became a professional singer after being overheard singing while polishing a car, won a Tony Award for his performance in Baz Lurhmann's Broadway production of La boheme in 2006. His other credits include Kismet, The Merry Widow and The Pearl Fishers for English National Opera.

How have you found doing Les Mis in the West End?
It’s been a wonderful time – the show is great, the music’s great and everybody I’m working with is fantastic. The schedule is grueling - I’m only doing six shows a week but I’ve found it tough also doing promotion for my album and the various other things I’ve got going on. But I’ve loved every minute and I’m going miss it like crazy.

And then you’re straight out on tour?
I have a week free and then straight on the road – a week of rehearsals, I hasten to add!

How’s the voice holding up?
It’s doing alright. As long as you eat and sleep properly and don’t burn the candle at both ends the voice seems to build in stamina.

How was working with Matt Lucas?
It was great. Matt’s a great performer – a lot of ad-libbing – and he’s a very nice guy. He’ll be doing a couple of dates with me on tour so I’m really pleased we’ll be able to do that.

You collaborate with Robert Plant and Michael Ball on the new album
Working with Robert was incredible. I met the guy in a bar and I thought we’d be chatting for about five minutes but an hour later we were still talking about music and his time in Led Zeppelin. So I kept in touch with me and plucked up the courage and asked him to duet with me and he said yes. He loved the song that I chose because he’d recorded it on one of his albums.

I’ve wanted to duet with Michael for a long time, and to take the chance to record “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” with the original Marius was great. I also recorded that track with Nick Jonas, so got the 25th anniversary Marius as well.

Going forward, do you want to focus more on opera or musical theatre?
I don’t see myself focusing on anything particular, in that I don’t want to give myself the title of an opera singer or a musical theatre performer, I just want to be known as a singer. There’s a lot of music out there that I want to sing, and I want to start writing stuff myself as well. I believe there are no boundaries between the artforms. People call it ‘cross-over’, but I just see that as taking new music to a different audience – mixing it all up and making people appreciate other peoples’ worlds, that’s what I want to do.

Surely you’ll play the Phantom at some stage?
It’s not in my mind at the moment. I don’t really want to play that role, because I have such a connection with Jean Valjean – I think I’d rather just have that association, rather than an association with the Phantom. Plus you have to wear that mask every night.

Who would be your dream collaborators on your next album?
There are tons of people I’d love to work with – David Bowie, Stevie Wonder. Of modern day artists I’d love to work with Florence and the Machine and Adele – I think their voices are really strong. On my tour I’m actually going to be joined by Melanie C for a couple of duets, which will be a really nice gig.

No opera singers on that list?
Terrible isn’t it! There are some wonderful opera singers out there I’d love to collaborate with - Carreras is someone I’d love to work with, and Bryn Terfel is a star. Sometimes the opera world can be a little closed, and it’s difficult to break through to that.

Have you spoken to Ramin Karimloo about playing Jean Valjean?
I haven’t actually. I always think it’s better for them to discover it themselves. The beauty about this piece is that people can add their own element to it, and make it a different performance. He won’t play it the same as I did and I won’t play it the same as him. I grew into the role and found my feet – I’ve been doing it for a year now and I’m still discovering things.

Alfie Boe continues in Les Miserables until 26 November. Alfie is on general sale now - click here to buy. For your chance to win one of ten copies, enter our new competition


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