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At This Performance: LES MISERABLES' Resident 'Valjean' Cover Aaron Walpole!

At This Performance: LES MISERABLES' Resident 'Valjean' Cover Aaron Walpole!

BroadwayWorld presents the second installment of our latest weekly feature, 'At This Performance' highlighting the work of some of Broadway's hardest-working actors - understudies and standbys!

Waiting in the wings, these show-savers detail their favorite moments on stage, backstage, and in rehearsal in this new series, offering an inside look at one of the most stressful jobs on the Great White Way.

LES MISERABLES' Aaron Walpole, who currently serves as the 'Jean Valjean' cover for Tony-nominee Ramin Karimloo, is no stranger to the barricade. Walpole has previously appeared in the North Americna tour of Boublil and Schonberg's hit musical, as well as the show's 2013 sit-down production in Toronto. Before returning to New York for LES MIS, Walpole made his Broadway debut as 'Annas' in the 2012 revival of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. Before his stage career took off, he was a contestant on the third season of CANADIAN IDOL.

You can find him on Twitter at @aaronwalpole.

How many times have you gone on as Valjean? I started with the National Tour of Les Miz on Feb. 17th, 2013 where I performed the role around 15 times or so before heading with the production to Toronto as the alternate Valjean. In Toronto, I performed the role around 35 times or so. Since coming to New York, I have performed the role 40 times to date. All in all, I've performed the role of Jean Valjean, approximately 90 times so far with many more scheduled dates to come.

What was your first time on like? The first time I went on as Valjean was at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, CT to a sold out crowd. I was so excited to finally be able to play the part which I fell in love with at the age of eleven. I don't remember much from that night other than my feet barely touched the ground.

What's the most challenging part of being an understudy? I'd say the most challenging part of being an understudy is dealing with the negative connotation attached to the word, "understudy". I've had so many friends and family members attend the show when I was on as Valjean, only to deal with audience members being upset and sometimes angry that "the understudy" was on all before the curtain went up. In fact, every time I go on in the role, just before the orchestra's down beat hits, I turn to my fellow actor, John Rapson, and say, "everyone out there hates me." Many people think that "the understudy" isn't going to be as good as the original actor because they weren't "good enough to book the part" or they were "second choice" for the part. That is not the case. I've seen a lot of understudies go on in many productions and I have rarely been let down. In most cases, I've enjoyed the show more without the hype that a headliner may bring which can sometimes muddy one's perception of how well the part was actually played. However, this pre-show notion that some people may believe in can also help drive the understudy to better execute the role in order to "win" the audience over. It's an up-hill battle I will gladly fight any day of the week.

What's your most memorable call-time story? It was a Tuesday night during the pre-Broadway run of Les Mis in Toronto, when I was just getting ready to play Valjean, Colm Wilkinson walked into the dressing room and sat on the sofa. He said, "may I sit and chat with you a while?" to which I replied, "uh...ya!" He continued to tell me Les Mis stories of his own from years ago when he originated the role of Valjean. I couldn't believe how candid and wonderfully friendly he was, especially, to a young man who has idolized him since the age of eleven. Colm was there to shadow the Bishop as he had agreed to perform the role for a one-time charity event later that week. He proceeded to watch the show from the wings. Colm Freaking Wilkinson watched me perform as Valjean from side stage for the entire show. It was an incredible feeling, but the coolest part happened after the show. As I was about to jump into the shower, there was a loud knock on the bathroom door. I opened the door and Colm gave me a big hug and congratulated me on my performance. The fact that I was scantly clad in a bath towel didn't seem to phase Colm at all. The whole evening was surreal.

What's your favorite way to pass the time backstage? Many performers read, play games or surf the net for ridiculous crap on their phones backstage, but I don't. I would get lost in my mind and miss a cue. Besides, being born in the pre-cell phone age of patience, I am able to comfortably wait to go on for the next scene.

Though you can only catch Walpole as Jean Valjean on very special occasions, we've got a collection of his other performance clips below!

Check back with BWW next Wednesday to catch up with another of Broadway's brightest in the next installment of 'At This Performance!'

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From This Author Tyler Peterson

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