I think the hardest thing for anyone playing Jean Valjean in Les Miserables has got to be competing with Colm Wilkinson. The typical audience doesn’t know who the original performers were, but with Les Miserables, the many people who kept that show open on Broadway and on tour owned the recordings (4/5 of which feature Wilkinson) or even the concert DVD.
And yet on tour, I’ve seen Randal Keith do the part at least three times (perhaps four), and he never failed to astound me and to erase from my mind Wilkinson’s significant interpretation. Randal Keith was doing that part for years, and every single performance I saw in that time exuded freshness, vitality, and the experience of seeing a character do something for the first time. And this isn’t just any part, this is Jean Valjean, requiring such a broad range of grand emotions, physicality, and vocal range. It was no surprise to me why Cameron Mackintosh chose Randal Keith to close out the show in its original New York run.
If the new Broadway mounting should tour, like every other time it came in the past, I will excitedly await, hoping to see that Randal Keith will be Jean Valjean.
the Broadway Mouth
August 3, 2007