Friday, July 13, 2012

Why Ramin Karimloo Should Open the New 2012 Toronto Les Mis

Though postponed, it has been announced that the epic Les Misérables, one of the world’s longest running shows, is to have a sit-down production in Toronto, Canada. The US tour of Les Mis, beginning in 2010 to celebrate twenty-five years of production in London, will end in Toronto to a sit-down theatre, though the date is undetermined. This show has not been in North America since 2008, when the Broadway revival closed.

Many outstanding Les Misers have gone through the show in North America, though not all were Americans. Colm Wilkinson transferred from London to New York to reprise his role of Jean Valjean, joined by Frances Ruffelle as Éponine (original in London). Judy Kuhn and Michael Maguire were discovered, originating Cosette and Enjolras on Broadway, and both were subsequently chosen for the famous ten-year anniversary in London at the Royal Albert Hall. Lea Salonga returned to Les Mis to play Fantine on Broadway, and was chosen four years later in the same role for the twenty-fifth anniversary production of Les Mis at the O2 Arena. Norm Lewis joined as Javert at the Broadhurst, and would later play the role in London and in Les Mis 25. Judy Kuhn also returned to play Fantine during the revival in 2007. John Owen-Jones even graced the Broadhurst stage as Jean Valjean, performing at the Queen’s Theatre for years and in the famous re-imagined UK tour.

The US tour cast was chosen carefully, with the knowledge in mind of the show’s immense popularity and the length of its absence. Chaston Harmon and Andrew Valera have been with the tour since it began in 2010, the only two cast members to do so in this particular tour. The first black Jean Valjean, Laurence Clayton, was in the tour, and was succeeded by J. Mark McVey, who won an award for his performance. They were joined by many other highly talented actors, including Justin Scott Brown, Jenny Latimer, Jeremy Hays, Betsy Morgan, Michael Kostroff, and Shawna M. Hamic, among others.

With such a plethora of talent, it is only natural that careful scrutiny will be used when casting the first sit-down production North America has seen in four years. And who better to re-originate the role of Jean Valjean than Toronto’s own Ramin Karimloo, who was (and still is) a standout favorite in London in the same role?

Technically, Karimloo is not a native Canadian (he’s from Iran), but he grew up in Toronto. After moving to London, he began his musical theatre career in the West End, quickly rising to become known as the West End’s leading man. He performed in Miss Saigon as Chris, and as Marius and Enjolras in Les Mis, both at the Queen’s Theatre, and was chosen as Enjolras for the twenty-fifth anniversary of Les Mis at the O2 Arena. He played Raoul against John Owen-Jones as Her Majesty’s Theatre, and won an award for his four-year long stint as the Phantom, originated the role of the Phantom in the sequel Love Never Dies, and performed in the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall to critical acclaim.

He most recently returned to the Queen’s Theatre as Jean Valjean to overwhelming appreciation, taking over from Alfie Boe, and Karimloo extended his run at the Queen’s by three weeks due to popular demand. An American composer, Scott Alan, was so impressed by Karimloo’s performance in Phantom 25 that he is currently writing a musical, ‘Iona,’ specifically for Karimloo and his two co-stars in Phantom 25, Sierra Boggess and Hadley Fraser.

Clearly, Karimloo is no stranger to Les Mis or the role of Jean Valjean. He has already received overwhelming appreciation for his performance in the role in London, and audiences are desperately hoping that he will return to Toronto to do Les Mis. His interpretation of the role is completely unique and sheds new light on the character which many thought had been explored to its fullest extent over the past twenty-seven years.

Casting Karimloo would bring audiences to Toronto solely for the purpose of seeing his performance. For fans living in North America of the show and of Karimloo, Toronto is more accessible than London. The draw that the show will have a sit-down theatre in North America at all is huge, but having Karimloo as Jean Valjean would draw even more audiences in.

All in all, it would be a very good move to cast Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean in the Toronto production of Les Misérables. Audiences are already clamoring for his return to Toronto in the role, and he was majorly successful in the role in London. With Les Mis finally getting a sit-down theatre in North America for the first time in four years, adding Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean would make the pull even stronger.

Bring Ramin home!

Footage and Recordings of Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean:
2012 London Trailer
Bring Him Home - 2012 London
One Day More - 2012 London
(feat. Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean, Hadley Fraser as Javert, Craig Mather as Marius, Lisa-Anne Wood as Cosette, Alexia Khadime as Éponine, Cameron Blakley as Thénardier, Katy Secombe as Madame Thénardier, Caroline Sheen as Fantine)

Images of Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean:


 Hadley Fraser and Ramin Karimloo


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