BWW Interview: Straight from the West End, Earl Carpenter Talks LES MISERABLES in Toronto
The Canadian production of Les Miserables begins previews at the end of the week, boasting an incredibly talented cast from across the country, and a 'borrowed' West End star in the role of Javert. Earl Carpenter hails from the U.K., where he has been wowing musical theatre audiences for over fifteen years.
He was recently seen as Javert in the 25th Anniversary tour of Les Miserables (and can be heard on the cast recording) and also played the title role of The Phantom of the Opera (a role he has in common with Mis co-star Ramin Karmiloo).
He had the honour of performing alongside Karimloo, Simon Bowman and John Owen Jones at the 25th Anniversary Phantom concert in London, and has also been a part of the widely popular 'Three Phantoms' concert series in the UK.
Earl took a few minutes to chat with BWW about the unique experience of being one of the only UK imports in this largely Canadian cast, what his first few weeks in Toronto have been like and what it's like working with Ramin Karimloo again:
This is your first time performing in the city and also in Canada - what's been the best part of the experience so far?
So far it's been the coffee shops! I'm a huge fan of the independent coffee merchant so I've enjoyed exploring the many that are scattered around everywhere. It's also provided a great perspective of the city. The last time I was in Toronto was in 1992, so things have changed dramatically.
Were there any major culture shocks when you first came over here?
Ha! Realising that your doors work differently to ours back in the UK. Please don't laugh, although I do everytime I completely stack it in many of your stores as I seem to have come from the 'school of the gifted' when opening doors. It's true, the default is to pull here where as ours are push.
You have a long history with Les Miserables and have tackled the role of Javert before (as well as other roles) - have you become a bit of a mentor for the rest of the cast?
The only thing I seem to be mentoring the cast on is our delightful british skill of 'sarcasm'.
Nothing wrong with that! You've performed with Ramin in concert at the O2 but ) the two of you never played opposite each other as Javert/Valjean. How has the rehearsal process been for you? Is it nice to have a familiar face on the barricades?
Well, we performed opposite each other in The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre in London's West End. Ramin was Raoul and I was the Phantom. This was back in 2006 so it is indeed nice to have a familiar face around. I think we both came here not really knowing anyone in the cast but it's also been great to catch up and to chat about this show with him.
Another role you're very well known for is playing The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, which is a role many men who've played Valjean have often played. Have you ever thought about switching things up and tackling Valjean instead of Javert? Perhaps we can see a reverse 'Confrontation' between you and Ramin?
Have you been eavesdropping? We have talked about this and discussed a role swap - it would be fun - but impossible of course. It has been something I've often pondered but I'm not entirely sure I have the voice for Valjean, you do need more of a 'tenor' voice to comfortably sing and sustain the number performances we do. Who knows though, maybe one day?
You've been in at least two high profile shows which have been associated with a certain level of 'super fandom' - have you encountered a lot of super fans and what has your general experience with them been?
I'm not someone who gets too enveloped with this side of the business. I try, without being rude, to keep a distance as I believe it's more to do with the roles and shows we're involved with that attract the attention. I'd rather keep it like that too. At the end of the day (no pun intended) I try and just be a jobbing actor striving for longevity rather then pursuing PR status. I've done ok so far without it. But it's great to know that these show have an amazing fan base. It's no surprise - they're amazing shows!
As you may know, Les Miserables is a show which is near and dear to the hearts of many Torontonians. For those who might be concerned about the 'changes' being made in this new 25th Anniversary production, what would be the number one reason you would tell them to come and see the show?
At the heart of this new production is 'Victor Hugo', more so than the original. Unbeknown to many he was an incredible artist and our designers have taken his paintings and used them to inspire the design of this piece in a way that gives you a real sense of novel and its writer. His paintings are used throughout and with extraordinary effect in this production create an ambience that propels us into the world that is truly Les Miserables. Then add the incredible music from Alain and Claude-Michel and you have something very exciting. I still love the original production as it has a very special place in my heart but this one is exciting and visually stimulated in its own right and I do believe any genuine stalwart fan of the original work will still get affected by this incredible story.