I realize I'm late in writing this, for which I can only plead a lack of words to describe the experience of hearing Boe sing. But, for those readers who have not yet heard of him, do yourself a favor and get his music.
My introduction to Boe was several years ago watching the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert in London's O2 stadium. I say “watching”, but in truth I didn't see much through the tears. I am undoubtably and unapologetically a sap when it comes to that musical anyway, which is a brilliant interpretation of my favorite book, but Boe's rendering of Jean Valjean ripped into my soul in a way no other performer has. There is an effortless and unaffected passion and power to his performance that infuses every part of your with a transcendent beauty.
And to think this flame of beauty almost was almost never given light. Alfie Boe's backstory is nearly compelling as his talent. The youngest of 9 children in a decidedly blue-collar family, he didn't grow up with vocal training or performance opportunity. As a young man, Boe worked, not at polishing his voice, but polishing cars at Britain's failing auto maker TVR. He would entertain other workers with singing while on the job and one day a customer heard him and recommended he audition in London. The rest is a fairy tale, meteoric rise leading to his selection to perform Valjean in the 25th Anniversary concert. I am staggered thinking of the few short years between working unskilled labor to standing alone on stage before 200,000 people, singing one of theatre's most beloved roles. Boe says he never has identified that customer.
This Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert is worth a spin not just for Alfie Boe. Samantha Barks does a wonderful Eponine, and Lea Solanga and Norm Lewis are superb as Fantine and Javert. The production values are outstanding and the Encore of “Bring Him Home” with four tenors singing Valjean, including the indomitable Colm Wilkinson, is alone worth the ticket. The lone blemish on this disc is Nick Jonas as Marius in what has to be the producers' pandering to attract a younger audience. While Jonas isn't Bieber-bad, he is hopelessly outclassed in this company. His straining and struggling is in sharp contrast to Boe's ease.
I urge everyone to take a listen to Alfie Boe snippets at http://www.broadwaybox.com/daily-scoop/20-awesome-videos-of-broadways-new-jean-valjean-alfie-boe/ and, if you are as smitten with his voice as I am, get the Blu-Ray of the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert. Even if you have other recordings of this musical theatre spectacular.