BWW Interviews: Debut of the Month - LES MISERABLES' Kyle Scatliffe
Kyle Scatliffe is making his Broadway debut in the role of Enjolras in the highly anticipated revival of Les Miserables, now in previews. The production will officially open on March 23rd at the Imperial Theatre (249 West 45th Street). The talented actor recently received the Olivier award nomination in London as best actor in a musical for The Scottsboro Boys.
Based on the novel of the same name by French poet and novelist Victor Hugo, Cameron Mackintosh's acclaimed new production of Alain Boublil & Claude-Michel Schönberg's Tony Award-winning musical masterpiece tells the epic and uplifting story of Jean Valjean and a cast of characters who are swept up into a revolutionary period in France, and celebrates the survival of the human spirit.
Today, the talented actor speaks exclusively with BroadwayWorld about his surreal casting experience and why his Broadway debut was easily his "favorite day in theater - ever!"
Let's start at the beginning. How did your casting come about for the role of 'Enjolras'?
Well I was in London performing in The Scottsboro Boys on the West End, and, it's really just an amazing story. I received two different emails from my agents telling me that they were casting for Les Mis. The first one said, 'Hey, this came for you. I know you're in England and can't really audition for it, but just so you know, this came in for you.' And I was like, 'Oh, that's cool.' Then, a week later I received another email from them and this was during tech week, and they were saying that they hadn't found anyone yet, so can I put myself on tape or send them anything. But because it was in the middle of tech week, I wasn't able to send them anything because I was just too busy. So opening night rolls around, and we perform the show, and by the end of the show, one of my cast mates said to me, 'Hey, did you see Cameron Mackintosh out there? He was sitting in the center?' And I said, 'What do you mean? No, I didn't.' And then we go out for the bows and sure enough I see Cameron sitting dead center, just watching the show opening night!
And then I get an email again from my agents saying that Cameron saw the show and he wanted me to come in on Sunday and go over some music and then on Monday go to the Queen's Theater and audition for the show. And it was like one of those moments when someone says something like that and your mind's just like, 'Ah ok, cool, Cameron Mackintosh wants to see me for Les Mis, hahaha, okay!' [laughing]
So I go in on Sunday, I go over the music with Laurence Connor, one of the directors, and then on Monday, I go to the Queen's Theater. And I was expecting that there had to be a voice room somewhere in the building, or that there would just be some sort of room where they hold auditions for the theater, but lo and behold, as one of the stagehands is walking me to the building, I start to get a feeling that I'm walking closer to a stage, and I'm like, 'Where am I going?' and she goes, 'Go right through there', and I was like, 'Are you serious?' and I walk out on the stage and Cameron's right there and he says, 'Hello!' and he's got the creative team sitting with him. And I'm thinking to myself, 'I'm standing on the stage, this doesn't happen. This is like one of those things that your teachers tell you about - this is how they used to audition, from the stage.'
And then Cameron walks up and shakes my hand and says hi and tells me how much he liked the show, and I'm just overwhelmed, but at the same time in my mind I'm thinking, 'He's never going to cast me' and Claude-Michel [Schönberg] was there and came up to me and gave me some notes for 'ABC Cafe' and for 'Red and Black', and I went over the material and then Cameron came over to talk to me about the revival and asked, 'Did you know we're trying to do the show?' and I was like, 'Not really' and he asked, 'Do you know Les Mis?' and I was like, 'Yes, it's my favorite musical, so yes!', and he started talking to me and you know when someone's pitching something to you but you don't really get that they're pitching it to you, that's what was happening. And then lo and behold, the next day I get a call from my agent and he asked me, 'Hey, how'd you like to make your Broadway debut in Les Mis?' and then I just fell over, I just literally fell in my seat! So it was a pretty surreal experience. It was crazy!
What a great story, but honestly it is not all that surprising to me because I think they knew a gem when they found one!
Well thank you.
So I have some statistics which I'm sure you've heard before - Les Mis has been translated into 22 different languages, productions in 42 countries, been seen by an estimated 60 million people, I can go on and on. What do you think it is about this story that makes it so universal?
Well, I think one of things about the story that makes it universal is actually one of my favorite parts about it and that is the redeeming quality of man. Jean Valjean goes from rags to riches, which is a dream that a lot of people have, but it's a strange way that he does it, because he doesn't care about the money, there's a selfless nature to everything he does. And if you look at Jean Valjean from where he is at the beginning and what he becomes, he is almost the personification of what a perfect Christian would be like. And I think that is another really big thing. Whether someone believes in God or doesn't believe, it's like if all of us could be just like him, it would certainly make it easier for people to have faith.
And I also think that everybody in their belly has a little bit of revolutionary in them, and they can relate to what the revolutionaries are fighting for. And then of course, you have the love story. So while most musicals usually have one of those three central plots to them, this show has all three, so you get to enjoy three different types of musicals all at once in a three-hour span.
Les Mis is so beloved by so many and I think the story has become even more familiar to mainstream audiences since the release of the 2012 film. Does that put a certain responsibility or added pressure on you and the cast to uphold people's expectations?
Well it's kind of an interesting thing. We do feel a kind of fan pressure, but at the same time, it's our own pressure because we love the musical as well. We're all very big fans of this musical and from Day 1 we've been like kids playing in the toy shop. On the first day of rehearsals, even people who have been on Broadway for years, were just as nervous because it's Les Mis. To us, it's like the Holy Grail, It's a very sacred thing, so we want to do it justice. We have one cast member who has done ten Broadway shows since the year 2000, and he says this is the most fun he's ever had on stage, he just loves doing this show.
So the pressure really comes from within mostly. The movie really doesn't add to that pressure because it came out about two years ago now, but I do feel that a wider range of people now know the story because of it. Also, there is the UK tour which sparked the 25th Anniversary production, and a lot of things in the movie are based off of that. So this production really includes things from the movie and the original production all put together.
You mentioned the ardent fans, and what was amazing to me was that before a single actor had even appeared on stage the other night, the orchestra hit those two opening notes, and the audience just erupted in cheers and applause. It was such an exciting and unique moment.
Yes, it's happened a couple of times so far and it energizes us at the same. And when it happens, we all look at each other and go, 'Hey guys, we're in Les Mis' (laughing) Even the very first day that we were with the orchestra, as soon as they played those two notes, we all freaked out. They must be the two most powerful notes in music, it's just 'dun dun', and that's it!
You also mentioned the seasoned cast that you are working with as well as the talented creative team. What has that experience been like and what have you learned from them?
It's been like walking through a dream at all times. I just had someone ask me, 'How are you feeling?' and I said 'I just hope I never wake up!' (laughing) It's been pretty amazing, working with Cassie (Levy) and Will (Swenson) and Ramin (Karimloo), they are all such veterans. Even Andy (Mientus) is a veteran, even though this is his first Broadway show, he's been in off-Broadway shows, he's been in Smash, so it's been incredible because I've been learning a lot of the business side of things from them, from Nikki (M. James) and all of them, because they know it so well. And I've been learning a lot about how the whole thing runs, how the whole machine works on Broadway and that's been a real learning experience.
The creative team has just been incredible. It's crazy to have the actual creators of Les Mis there, we even have the original costume designer, to have them all there has been amazing. Any notes you get from the directors is like, 'make sure that this is in there because that is what the original intent of things were and this is what we're trying to do as well', and then you swirl them all together and it makes a new show. I's quite interesting what they've been able to do all together because of the show's age and also because of the fact that the show used to be more of a stand and sing, and now it's got so much real life grit to it, so yeah, I'm living the dream. I'm literally walking around living a dream!
How wonderful. What was it like to make your Broadway debut in such an iconic show?
Well, the first thing we did that day was we had a rehearsal as we normally do before a preview, and then we all got on stage together and we had a little minor celebration for the people who were having their Broadway debuts, Will gathered us on stage for a little celebration, and the thing that was the most amazing was that when those first two notes hit, it got so loud we were all smiling, the curtain was still down and we were all smiling but then we were like, 'We have to get into the show!''
We were having so much fun and then every time a character was introduced, they were cheered for. The first time was just amazing because the crowd was filled with people who, as soon as this show was announced, as soon as those tickets were put on line, they bought them specifically for that day. And one of the coolest things ever was at the end, the show was over and we were all so happy, we were upstairs in the dressing rooms congratulating each other. And then out of no where we start to hear 'Do you hear the people sing' and we were like, 'Where is that coming from?' And we opened the window, and the fans were downstairs singing outside the window. And then we all starting screaming and waving at them and I was like, 'Are we at a rock concert? This is like a Beatles concert right now!' It was really crazy, but it was amazing and we couldn't be here without them. They love the show just as much as we do, and even more. It's incredible. That day was easily my favorite day of theater - ever, and probably top three days of my life. It was just wonderful!
About Kyle Scatliffe:
Kyle Scatliffe trained at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NY. His theater credits include Ragtime(Zach Theatre), Oklahoma (5th Avenue Theatre), A Christmas Carol: The Concert (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra/PBS), 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Alabama Shakespeare Festival) and "Haywood Patterson" in the London premiere of The Scottsboro Boys.
Photo credit: Matthew Murphy