Les Misérables

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - EN­TER­TAIN­MENT -

In his ca­reer of long runs — six years as Mar­ius, fourand-a-half years in var­i­ous roles in The Phan­tom of the Opera and two years as Chris in Miss Saigon — a year-anda-half as Val­jean is con­sid­ered just set­tling in to Vic­tor Hugo’s tale of in­jus­tice and re­demp­tion.

“It’s one of the best roles in the mu­si­cal canon,” says Lock­yer, whose father is Cana­dian and mother an Amer­i­can. He grew up in Con­necti­cut and Toronto.

“There aren’t many like it. I get to span 20 years, go­ing from a man who feels per­se­cuted by life to a man of grace. I feel like I get to learn a life les­son ev­ery night.”

For the 25th an­niver­sary of pro­ducer Cameron Mack­in­tosh’s money-spin­ning ex­trav­a­ganza, John Napier’s iconic turntable set has been moth­balled in favour of pro­jec­tions in­spired by Hugo’s own paint­ings of Paris.

“They use pro­jec­tions of those paint­ings to cre­ate im­ages for our show,” he says. “We have a new sound sys­tem and or­ches­tra­tions. It has a more up-to-date feel. Other than that, the themes and the mu­sic are ex­actly the same.”

Lock­yer, who looks older than he is but will not di­vulge his age, likens the up­grades to look­ing at a favourite piece of art from a dif­fer­ent an­gle.

“The orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion was ro­man­tic and lush and had an ex­pan­sive feel,” he says. “This pro­duc­tion feels a lit­tle quicker, edgier and more in-your-face.”

Lock­yer was an unin­spired high school stu­dent when he was a part of a class trip to New York City to see Les Misérables. Of course, he was wowed, and he bought a poster he put up on his bed­room wall. Lit­tle did he know how it would im­pact his ca­reer.

“I was touched right away by the artis­tic and vis­ceral na­ture of the mu­sic,” he says. “It’s emo­tional mu­sic, and that touches ev­ery­one re­gard­less of whether you’re go­ing to dive into the phi­los­o­phy of the show or not. You feel as soon as you hear that boom, boom open­ing chord.”

Ac­tu­ally, his first star­ring role was in Miss Saigon, an­other Claude-Michel Schön­berg/Alain Bou­blil mu­si­cal that will al­ways be spe­cial to him be­cause he mar­ried his co-star, Me­lanie. The same cre­ative team then cast him as an un­der­study for Mar­ius and even­tu­ally pro­moted him to the role full-time.

“I’ve known Cameron since I was a teenager,” he says. “I af­fec­tion­ately call him Un­cle Cammy, though he doesn’t know that. I’m in­cred­i­bly blessed and grate­ful for the op­por­tu­ni­ties he has given me. He has sin­gle-hand­edly given me a ca­reer.”

Most stage ac­tors in Les Misérables looked at last year’s hit movie ver­sion with some long­ing. Lock­yer claims he is not pos­ses­sive of the Val­jean role and does not har­bour any ill will against Hugh Jack­man, the star of the big-screen adap­ta­tion. He says each Val­jean brings some­thing spe­cial to the role. His favourite is Colm Wilkin­son, whom he per­formed with on­stage and counts as a per­sonal hero.

“You can’t ul­ti­mately hide who you are on stage,” he says. “Your hon­esty and sin­cer­ity comes through and I hope I am able to do that. I hope I bring my heart to it and peo­ple see that it’s per­sonal for me.”

The an­niver­sary runs are ca­reer high­lights, but Lock­yer had an­other one when Les Misérables pre­miered in China in 2002. A Chi­nese poet was hired to write the trans­la­tion, which was pro­jected over the stage.

“When the red flag was wav­ing I thought about Tianan­men Square and the stu­dent up­ris­ing,” he says. “There were cer­tain his­tor­i­cal con­nec­tions, but it re­ceived thun­der­ous ap­plause like ev­ery­where else.”

Per­haps the big­gest star he ever shared the stage with was the leg­endary Bar­bra Streisand dur­ing a sum­mer tour in 2007. No one would for­get singing Evergreen with Streisand.

It was a gig, ac­tu­ally the job of a life­time, he says, which came his way again be­cause of his con­nec­tions to Les Misérables, a show that keeps on giv­ing.

“The show will be done over and over again long af­ter you and I are gone. It will be re-in­ves­ti­gated be­cause the themes will never get old. Hav­ing a chance to come back to the show is tes­ta­ment to the strength of the piece. Most shows close so you don’t get a chance to re­turn to the show as an older char­ac­ter.”

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