BWW Interviews: Peter Lockyer on LES MISÉRABLES, Coming to Austin May 29-June 3
“2010 marked the 25th anniversary year for LES MISÉRABLES. It is now the longest running musical in the world and in October 2010, celebrated its 25th anniversary with a theatrical first - three different productions of the same musical staged at the same time in one city – the star-studded concerts at The O2, the acclaimed new 25th Anniversary Production (which completed its sell-out UK Tour at London's Barbican Theatre) and the original production, which continues its record breaking run at the Queen's Theatre, London.
The New 25th Anniversary Production has been a huge hit all over again, currently breaking box office records across North America and in Spain, with other productions due to open worldwide in Canada, Australia, South America, South Africa, Korea, Japan and China over the next three years” (www.lesmis.com).
In April of 2012, Peter Lockyer joined the U.S. Tour cast taking over the role of Jean Valjean. Peter Lockyer played Marius on Broadway many years ago and now has this new opportunity to play Jean Valjean. I recently interviewed Peter and learned a lot about his career and how he feels about being part of musical history.
It’s hard to believe you have been in the business for over twenty years (you’re so young). Tell me a little about your career and how you got started.
I am older than I look and I moved to New York 2 weeks after I graduated from high school and I did graduate a little early. I thought about going to college at the time, but I wasn’t the best high school student in the world. I was busy thinking I was going to do either sports or theatre. I didn’t think that grades mattered. Little did I know that they actually do and to be the best actor, you have to be the smartest person in the world. I moved to the city and started to audition and starting working right away. I started as a dancer in 42nd Street and toured Europe for a year. After that, I just rolled with it and moved on to other jobs. It seems strange that it’s been over 20 years, but I guess it has been.
What are some of the other shows that have done over the years?
I am a child of the long runs. I did Miss Saigon for two years where I met my wife. I did Les Miz initially starting in 1996. I played Marius for 6 years. I did Phantom for 4 ½ years and La Boehme. Those are the highlights. I'm so thankful to Cameron Macintosh; I can’t say it enough. I’ve said it to him 5 million times but he’s given me the career.
As you said, you met your wife doing Miss Saigon; I just wondered exactly how you met. I love to hear a romance. Can you tell us a little about that?
I still remember February 8th, I joined the first national tour of Miss Saigon and the very first person I ever met from the company was Melanie. I walked into the theatre and she was standing there and I met her first. Five minutes later we were kissing onstage. We tried to hold off; we didn’t think it would be smart to date someone that was in the company. You get these ideas in your head that you shouldn’t date people from the work, but where else can you meet people? We held off for all of a month and started dating. We’ve been married 16 years and together for 18. It’s a sappy love story onstage and offstage.
We talked about LES MISÉRABLES and how you played Marius for so long and now you’re playing Jean Val Jean. Is this the first chance that you’ve had to play him?
I accidently did a very short run of it in a community theatre in Hawaii, my wife is from Hawaii, my wife and I directed a theatre production of Les Miz years ago. I had guys lined up to play Valjean and one by one they fell away. I went through like 12 guys. We were 2 weeks into rehearsal. Finally the theatre said, “Well, you just do it.” At the time I couldn’t even conceive of myself doing the role. I ended up doing it and I didn’t really rehearse it because I was directing the show. I would be on the microphone from the house. They would be doing a scene; I wouldn’t be on the stage. I literally just stepped into it and it was during that time that my wife said, “You know, it really works. You’re doing a great job. I know you didn’t think you could do this but this is something you can really do someday in a first class production.” Fast forward a few years and this came up. I’m just so thrilled and honored to be doing this and with great people involved. The directors and our resident director, Michael O’Donnell who put me into the show here with the directors James (Powell) and Laurence (Connor) blessings have allowed me to sort of make things my own within the confines of the show. We’ve changed a couple of major things and a lot of little things that make it feel very personal to me. It’s pretty exciting for me.