Who was your first Jean Valjean?

Monday, 21 March 2011 10:08 AM Written by 

Last night, WQED reran the "Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert" celebrating the show's West End debut, with the marvelous Alfie Poe as Jean Valjean, Lea Salonga as Fantine and a cast of about 500, including choirs and musicians. The conclusion presented four other performers who have played the role, including the original, Colm Wilkinson.

GaryMorrisValjeanAmong the missing was the Jean Valjean of my Broadway experience with "Les Mis," Gary Morris (left), who came in as a replacement for Wilkinson about six months into the show.

I was there on Morris' second night in the show. His background was mostly country music, and those fans were there in abundance. I just wanted him to make me forget that I had missed Colm Wilkinson, and I have to say, "Bring Him Home" still sounded incredibly sweet to me. The cast seemed to be beyond excited during the encore, mostly congratulating their new Valjean and forgetting all of the people on their feet in the audience.

For his run in "Les Mis," Morris received a Drama Desk Best Actor nomination and his rendition of "Bring Him Home" is on the platinum-selling, Grammy-winning international cast album, as well as on his CD, "Gospel Classics, Volume 2 — Rock of Ages." His recording of "Wind Beneath My Wings" won both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music Song of the Year Awards and he played opposite Linda Ronstadt in the New York Shakespeare Festival production of "La Boheme."

So, watching the concert last night, I was left wondering what happened to my Jean Valjean, According to Gary Morris' Web site:

"Still keeping an active touring and producing schedule, Morris presently divides his time between Nashville, Tennessee, and a second home at Mountain Spirit, his spectacular hunting and fly-fishing executive resort in Southern Colorado." His next gig is titled "Call of the Wild Turkey," April 9-May 22, at Mountain Spirit Lodge.

Fred Inkley, who played the role for Pittsburgh CLO in 2009, also was a Broadway replacement. That was the last time I saw the show. The concert, part of the WQED fund-raising drive, is now out on DVD.

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