Les Mis makes its way to the prairies
How one actor feels about playing a role he has dreamed of since childhood
Article: Robyn Tocker – A&C Editor
When Les Misérables was adapted to a play in Paris 1980, its success was doubted, but as seen today, that all changed. It is the fourth longest-running Broadway show in history and won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Score. The fact that such a play even entered Regina is a marvel, but Aaron Walpole, who understudies as Jean Valjean, explains this version of Les Mis has changed a bit.
“Instead of it being such a huge spectacle with a choir, orchestra, huge cast and setting, everything has been downsized and it focuses more on the heart of the story.”
Having seen both the original Broadway adaptation and the downsized version, Walpole says, “It is just as powerful, if not more so than the original. It is more intimate.”
The 25th anniversary production is on tour until August 11, where it will end in Las Vegas. So far for Walpole, being a part of the production has been a highlight of his career.
“I was introduced to the play at 11 years old. I fell in love instantly. It’s amazing to be a part of what I consider to be one of my favourite musicals of all time. It’s a dream come true.”
Walpole is not new to the musical scene. His favourite role, Judas from Jesus Christ Superstar, was a part he was privileged to play not only on Broadway, but also at the Stratford Festival.
“A very close second [favourite role] is Valjean,” he said. “I go on as him once a week and I also do off-stage vocal in the barricade.”
Walpole is also part of the ensemble. “My favourite part about Valjean, besides his vocals being easier then the ensemble track, is the audience reaction. If I do a good job, they let me know, and if I do a bad job, they let me know.” He described it as a rush. “Once you get your first standing ovation you try to get more.” Walpole has seen audiences standing since the tour began and mentioned how they have not ended a show without a standing ovation.
Walpole is not only an actor, but he also appeared on Canadian Idol when he was 26 years old. At 18, he had started in professional theatre so he went on hiatus to go on Idol.
“I took a break from the Stratford Festival for it, then came back to my day job once it was over.”
In terms of the film adaptation, Walpole said he enjoyed it.
“I loved the filmography. Hugh Jackman was great and I loved Marius.”
Yet it was also odd at some points, knowing certain scenes were cut or added and songs were out of order in some places.
“The stage version is different than the film version but people seem to think it is better.”
It’s not an easy thing to get to where Walpole has. When asked what advice he would offer to up-and-coming Canadian actors, he said, “Do everything you can in the business. Learn how to play an instrument so you can do smaller gigs in between the bigger ones. Try to be as diverse as possible.”
This production of Les Mis “has a ton of Broadway-calibre actors. It is absolutely worth seeing and you will not be disappointed with the show.”
Check out the tour dates and try to catch it before the tour ends!