Tag Archives: Colm Wilkinson

Ramin Karimloo & Seth Rudetsky at The Herbst

The Herbst: Ramin Karimloo with Seth Rudetsky

Last night I spent a terrific evening with theatre fans at the Herbst Theatre. It was my first time at this intimate venue in the War Memorial, located on Van Ness Avenue across from City Hall. I read reviews on Yelp that said the balcony was either steamy hot or downright chilly, so I dressed in layers. From my excellent seat in the second row center of the Dress Circle, everything was just right.

I arrived early and caught the last part of the ‘No One Is Above The Law’ protest in front of City Hall, just before protesters started a march to Mission Street. City Hall was all lit up in blue lights. Once I arrived in the lobby of the War Memorial, I had time to study the banners commemorating WWI. The Herbst opened at 7pm, so I spent the next half hour chatting with the folks sitting around me. I laughed with a woman in the first row who loves Phantom of the Opera but can’t stand Les Mis, because I’m the exact opposite. We were happy to agree to disagree. The nice fellow sitting on my left helped me during the concert with songs from shows I didn’t recognize. He also gave me his take on the local production of The Boy From Oz that I’m seeing next week.

I became obsessed with Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser back in 2010, when they appeared as Enjolras and Grantaire in the Les Misérables 25th Anniversary Concert, which aired here on PBS. For many months after, my blog here was taken over by West End guest posts and Les Mis/Phantom screen caps. Ultimately, blogging about West End actors from afar proved more frustrating than entertaining. Fast forward eight years, and Ramin Karimloo finally came to San Francisco. I had to be there for his first ever performance in my city, and he didn’t disappoint.

Seth Rudetsky played host, interviewer, pianist, and sparring partner. Rudetsky and Karimloo sat in chairs and chatted about Karimloo’s life story and career. They’d get up to perform a song, then sit down again for more chat. There were plenty of laughs, especially at Rudetsky’s numerous attempts to get a Valjean/Javert duet going. The women in the audience sang the Sandy part to Summer Loving (Grease), while Karimloo and Rudetsky struggled (and argued) over the lyrics to Danny’s part. Karimloo’s “She went down in the sand” was wrong but awesome.

It was fun to hear Karimloo discuss his life and career, even though I was familiar with most of his bio already. Folks down in the orchestra were calling out comments during the interview, and we couldn’t hear much of what they said from the balcony. It was the only frustrating part of the evening. Rudetsky must have thought everyone could hear, because he kept asking those folks if they were wearing microphones. I was hoping for some mention of Karimloo’s friendship with Hadley Fraser, Sheytoons (Karimloo and Fraser’s bluegrass band), and Anastasia, but they didn’t come up. Karimloo discussed his bet with a teenage friend that he’d one day play the Phantom, his admiration for and friendship with Colm Wilkinson, meeting his wife during an audition for a cruise ship, his brief stint in Sunset Boulevard, and how he was cast in Love Never Dies. He also talked about his initial reluctance to play Valjean (Les Mis).

Here’s the set list, not in strict order, since I was too busy enjoying myself to take notes:

Moving Too Fast (The Last Five Years)

Summer Loving (Grease)

It All Fades Away (The Bridges of Madison County) with Ramin on guitar

Sunset Boulevard

Anthem (Chess)

The Pirate King (Pirates of Penzance)

Bring Him Home (Les Misérables)

Music of The Night (Phantom of the Opera)

Til I Hear You Sing (Love Never Dies)

Muddy Water (Big River)

Make Them Hear You (Ragtime)

Ol Man River (Show Boat) with Ramin on guitar

The Confrontation (Les Misérables) with Rudetsky singing Javert

After the concert, I went to the stage door, where a few folks with paid Meet & Greet tickets waited in line. I stayed further back and had a great time chatting to several fans. Eliza was at my Aaron Tveit concert in September, and Elena from Bath told us she was in the audience at the 25th anniversary Phantom at the Royal Albert Hall. Seth Rudetsky stopped to say hello to us. The last fellow in the Meet & Greet line showed us his photos with Karimloo, and we discovered a shared passion for Greek tenor Mario Frangoulis. I was still chatting with Eliza and Elena when Karimloo came out with several others, so we got to thank him for the show. We didn’t ask for photos and autographs; just seeing him up close was enough. When I came out of the building, Karimloo was taking photos of the blue City Hall. I told him to come back soon, then rushed off to catch my late night bus.

Okay, so now it’s time for Hadley Fraser. Come perform in San Francisco, please!


Filed under Actors, Music, Real Life, Theatre

POTO25: Curtain Call and Encores


Curtain call with Hadley Fraser, Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess
Curtain call with Hadley Fraser, Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh
John Owen-Jones, Sarah Brightman, Colm Wilkinson and Peter Jöback
John Owen-Jones, Sarah Brightman, Colm Wilkinson and Peter Jöback
Ramin Karimloo, Sarah Brightman, Colm Wilkinson and Peter Jöback
Ramin Karimloo, Sarah Brightman, Colm Wilkinson and Peter Jöback
Colm Wilkinson and Peter Jöback
Colm Wilkinson and Peter Jöback
Ramin Karimloo, Colm Wilkinson and Peter Jöback
Ramin Karimloo, Colm Wilkinson and Peter Jöback
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Michael Crawford
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Michael Crawford
Michael Crawford and Ramin Karimloo shake hands
Michael Crawford and Ramin Karimloo shake hands
Crawford, Boggess, Karimloo, Warlow, Wilkinson, & Joback
Crawford, Boggess, Karimloo, Warlow, Wilkinson, & Jöback

Confetti finale

These are from the finale at the Royal Albert Hall, celebrating 25 years of The Phantom of the Opera.


Filed under Actors, Theatre

Les Mis: The Originals

Here are my favorites from the original cast of Les Misérables, singing “One Day More.”  This is during the finale of the 25th anniversary concert.

Michael Ball and Rebecca Caine

Rebecca Caine (Cosette) and Michael Ball (Marius)

Michael Ball (Marius)

Michael Ball (Marius)

Frances Ruffelle (Eponine)

Frances Ruffelle (Eponine)

Les Miserables: Alfie Boe, Colm Wilkinson, Ramin Karimloo

Colm Wilkinson (Valjean) with Alfie Boe and Ramin Karimloo

Sarah Jane Tanner and Alun Armstrong

The Thenardiers: Sarah Jane Tanner and Alun Armstrong

Related Posts:   Gavroche   My Les Mis    Please Sir, I Want Some More    To The Barricade!   Ramin Karimloo   Grantaire   Enjolras & Grantaire   Thénardier Waltz    Gavroche: Liar!     Bring Him Home   Enjolras   24601

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My Les Mis

Last night was the PBS broadcast of the 25th Anniversary Les Misérables concert.  Watching it brought back lots of memories, since it’s my favorite musical.

I saw Les Misérables for the first time in London on October 2, 1986.   It was still the original cast, with the exception of Patti LuPone as Fantine, who had already moved on.  I decided to go see the musical because everyone was talking about it, but I was skeptical.  I wasn’t at all familiar with the story.  I had no idea what to expect.  It was during the very first scene, when the prisoners trudge out singing “look down,” that I fell in love with the show.  I suppose it’s because of the epic story with a large cast of characters and all that melodrama.  The music is great too, of course.  I love how it goes from a single person on an empty stage pouring his or her heart out, to the big crowd scenes.  Oddly enough, I was pleased that there was almost no dancing.  The London production had strong dramatic lighting combined with dark corners you couldn’t quite make out.   It was a perfect remedy to all the cheerful, fluffy, dance-filled musicals I’d seen up to that point.  I was completely taken with Michael Ball as Marius, and I also loved Frances Ruffelle (Éponine) and Colm Wilkinson (Valjean).

Alfie Boe, Colm Wilkinson & Ramin Karimloo, in the Les Miserables concert

Alfie Boe, Colm Wilkinson & Ramin Karimloo, in the Les Miserables concert

I liked Les Mis so much, I went back and saw it again the same week.  I probably would have continued going back, but my trip ended.  I did my best to meet the cast, standing at the stage door between a matinee and an evening performance.  I mostly wanted to meet Michael Ball, but he never came out.  Frances Ruffelle was the only person I remember meeting, and she was lovely.  I just told her she was great as she walked by, but she turned back and gave me a big smile and a thank you.  There was a small circle of other fans gathered by the stage door, and I hung back in the alley, watching who was going in as well as who was coming out.  Andrew Lloyd Webber and a woman who I believe was Sarah Brightman walked past me and went in.  I felt no desire to ask Lloyd Webber for an autograph, because I was young and arrogant enough to be unimpressed by him.   I flew home with a suitcase filled with souvenirs, including the cast CD (my very first CD ever!), a sweatshirt, and the unabridged Penguin edition of the book.  On the plane, I was seated next to a man who sat in the same row at the same performance of Les Mis, and we talked for the entire flight about our new obsession.

I was determined to read the entire 1000 page Les Misérables, so I set myself a goal of a hundred pages of day.  It worked, and I finished it on the tenth day.  The problem with reading an epic length novel is that nothing else satisfies after you’re done.   It feels like losing a best friend, and you go through a period of mourning.   Anyway, what I got from reading the book is that Les Mis is essentially a story about the Old Testament versus the New.  Javert’s philosophy is “an eye for an eye,” and his God doesn’t forgive.  He is too busy smiting his enemies.  Valjean undergoes a conversion after his encounter with the bishop, and his God is about love and grace and sacrifice for others.  Thénardier represents an existence without God or morals.  Javert destroys himself when his faith in his rigid concept of God is shaken by Valjean, and Valjean finds salvation and redemption.   One of the reasons I love the musical version is that it doesn’t secularize the story by removing the references to God.

My love affair with Les Mis continued over the years.  I was working as a tour guide at Sea World in the mid-80s, and one of the places we had to staff for hour-long stretches never got much traffic.  I would sing Les Mis songs to pass the time.  I needed a secluded spot well away from others, with my singing voice!  One year, two different friends gave me Les Mis beach towels. I saw the musical a total of five times in London at the Palace Theatre, usually in the same restricted-view box seat.   I liked to take my binoculars and find the microphones hidden on the actors.  I was delighted to discover that Javert’s microphone was disguised as the scar on his cheek.  One of the times I saw the show, I could clearly see that the actor playing Valjean and the little girl playing Cosette loathed each other.  When he picked her up and swung her around, she looked disgusted and he practically threw her down.  One of my biggest regrets was missing Mario Frangoulis play Marius by only a month.  He’s now one of my favorite singers.   A couple of summers ago, I finally saw a production of Les Mis here in the US, performed by the San Diego Junior Theatre.  Damn, those were some talented kids!  I was so impressed.

Ramin Karimloo and Robert Madge, Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert

Ramin Karimloo and Robert Madge

So, 25 years later, we have the anniversary concert.  I particularly enjoyed Lea Salonga (Fantine), Matt Lucas (Thénardier), Ramin Karimloo (Enjolras), Hadley Fraser (Grantaire), and Robert Madge (Gavroche).  It was a shame that Gavroche’s dying scene was cut from the concert, because I would love to see Madge perform it.   I don’t automatically like the boys playing Gavroche, because they can be obnoxious, but Robert Madge had just the right amount of cheekiness.  Alfie Boe (Valjean) has a lovely voice, especially singing Bring Him Home.  I’m not sure so many extreme close-ups benefited him, because his voice is so much more expressive than his face.¹  The close-ups certainly didn’t help Nick Jonas (Marius).  I’m quite fond of the Jonas brothers, and I really wanted Nick to be a good Marius.  He seemed to be struggling with the vocal range, and his facial expressions often made him look constipated.  The song A Little Fall of Rain didn’t quite work with the actors standing up at microphones, instead of Éponine collapsing to die in Marius’s arms.  Still, I found the whole concert very moving, and it was so fun to see many of the original cast members come out at the end.  (Once again, Patti LuPone was missing!)   This concert confirms that Les Mis is still my favorite musical.

Robert Madge as Gavroche, Les Miserables 25th anniversary concert

Robert Madge as Gavroche

If you want to check out more of Robert Madge, watch this video from Oliver! where he plays The Artful Dodger.

¹Note: My opinion of Alfie Boe’s expressiveness has altered since seeing videos of him singing with Matt Lucas and joking around in Lucas’ kitchen [recently removed from YouTube, unfortunately].   Maybe it was the beard.

Related posts:  Gavroche   Please Sir, I Want Some More   To the Barricade!   Ramin Karimloo   Grantaire   Enjolras & Grantaire   Thénardier Waltz   Gavroche: Liar!   Bring Him Home   Enjolras   Les Mis: The Originals   24601    Fantine   Cosette & Madame Thénardier   Les Mis: The Streets of Paris   First Look: Hadley Fraser’s Javert


Filed under Actors, Literature, Television, Theatre, Travel