BWW Interviews: Colm Wilkinson on his Christmas Concerts, the Les Miserables Film and more
Bloodless reminded me a bit of Les Miserables when it first came out. We were absolutely slaughtered when we first premiered in London, and now it's gone on to become the most successful musical in the world. Often these things aren't appreciated on the first go around.
Do you think Theatre 20 will keep going?
I think they have to keep going and they will keep going. I know that. Adam Brazier (and the whole group of founding artists) are powerhouses when it comes to energy and drive. I sincerely hope they hold onto that and don't let some negative reviews bring them down.
What was it like working on the Les Miserables feature film?
I've done some film and tv work before, I think The Tudors for example was a great thing for me to do because it helped me get familiar with the technical requirements of working on a movie. All the waiting that you have to do and the methodology that goes into this discipline is very different to someone who is in theatre.
I'm used to walking out on a stage, starting from that moment and going through my whole journey in a two hour period. I stay in that zone and that place. A film is more stop and start and you do different scenes out of sequence so it becomes a lot more challenging. The Bishop's role is not huge but it was very gratifying to be welcomed by these big time Hollywood actors who seemed genuinely delighted to have me there. I have a lot of respect for them, this is a difficult process with early mornings on strange locations and it is very repetitive. The thing I had to be most aware of was the way I would project. In theatre you project a lot but in movies you can't do that because of all the close up shots. I learned a lot about how to handle a camera and how much to emote. I would love to do more of it.
We've heard a lot about how the actors are all singing live - is that true? What was it like?
It is true and the first time it's ever been done. It's extremely difficult because you only have this tiny earpiece and you're singing to an electric piano in strange locations and often inclement weather. You don't have the track that they would normally have, they were matching the track to what we did after the fact. So Hugh Jackman had to sing the Prologue to just a tiny electric piano - and I can't even imagine that. For me you need that weight of the orchestra behind you for that song, it gives you a lift and a blanket and something to coast on. Hearing a tinkly piano that sounds like it's miles away is very different, and Hugh has my total admiration. It's unbelievable the discipline and work ethic they all have.
Did you give any of the film stars singing tips?
Not really - obviously Hugh Jackman and I worked together more than the others, but they didn't need vocal coaching from me. Instead the experience was a bit of coming full circle for me, because the Bishop hands the candlesticks to Valjean at the beginning of the movie and sets him off on his journey, and now I get to send Hugh off on his own journey. It's a great way to pass the torch and end my association with Les Miserables.
Finally, what do you think of the prevailing rumours that Les Miserables will be returning to Toronto? Do you think the city can support another production of the show?
I don't know to be honest, I've been out of the theatrical side of Toronto for a long time. But I'm sure the movie will generate a lot more interest in the show - Cameron Macintosh is fantastically good at marketing and I'm sure he's banking on that. In the theatre you MUST market well. If people don't hear it, they don't know about it. He knows how to keep something going and reinvent it. He's done that with anniversaries, amateur productions, playing the show in other countries and now the movie. It's brilliant the life this show has had.
When and Where?
Colm Wilkinson: Christmas, Broadway and Beyond
Currently touring across Canada with many dates in and around the GTA. For full list of cities and concert dates please visit Colm's official website at www.colmwilkinson.com