Les Miserables. Lockyer played chief revolutionary Marius on Broadway in the show’s 10th anniversary production in 1997. Now, he has graduated to the lead role of the heroic but hunted Jean Valjean in the 25th anniversary tour. It will play San Diego’s Civic Theatre from August 28th-September 2nd.
A native of Connecticut, Lockyer also spent time in Canada while growing up and has traveled to such exotic locales as China and South Korea in prior tours of Les Miserables. He and his actress wife, Melanie (who, conveniently, is rehearsing the new musical Allegiance at the Old Globe this month) even lived in nearby Long Beach for two years.
Lockyer generously spoke to me from San Francisco last month before moving to Southern California.
CC: How long have you been with this tour now?
PL: Three months. It’s been fantastic, best show ever.
CC: How has the experience of playing Jean Valjean been for you?
PL: It’s arguably the best role in musical theatre. I’m three months in now and I think a lifetime could be spent getting to know this character. It’s sort of a spiritual lesson to me every day, to remember to love and not become cynical.
CC: Why do you think this story and musical have such an enduring appeal?
PL: I’ve said it before: I think Victor Hugo’s novel is so sprawling and epic with so many characters that I think it represents all of human life. Each character represents some aspect or facet of the human experience. And then, of course, it has an amazing score, one of the best scores in the musical-theatre canon.
CC: What have been some of the key changes with the staging of Les Mis since you first appeared in it 15 years ago?
PL: All the technological changes, which are visual changes that just hit you in the face. The direction is also different. The original production had a poetic majesty to it. This production is grittier and more in your face. It gives us a new lens to view the story through. I find it interesting that technology is being used in a new way that kind of combines theatre and cinema, not only in Les Mis but in other shows as well.
CC: Would you say this production of Les Mis holds any special appeal or message for GLBT viewers?
PL: Wow, I’ve never thought about that but yeah, absolutely. The message of this show is to love another person. To see the face of God is to love another. In this time when we’re fighting for marriage equality, I think that message is absolutely powerful. Plus, it’s musical theatre, come on! (Laughs)
CC: Any thoughts about the upcoming movie version of Les Mis (scheduled for release this December and starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway, among others)?
PL: We can’t wait! When you’re doing a show or tour, you feel like you own it, but we (the tour’s cast) have all seen the trailer and we were all just completely silent. It looks great! I think what worked great in Sweeney Todd with more naturalistic music and voices will work great in it. I’m excited to see it.
CC: What have been some of your other favorite roles or memorable show experiences?
PL: Les Mis is part of my life and life’s blood. Other shows have touched me in different ways: Miss Saigon, by the same writers as Les Mis; La Boheme on Broadway, during which I learned so much from working with director Baz Luhrmann (also known for the movies Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge! and his upcoming version of The Great Gatsby); and Cyrano: The Musical.
CC: How about the 1993 made-for-TV version of Gypsy, which starred Bette Midler?
PL: Gypsy was my second professional job, and then I got cast in my first Broadway show. We rehearsed Gypsy for a long time at the studio in Los Angeles before we shot it, so it was more like a Broadway show. Bette was amazing to work with. It was also an odd experience because the director, Emile Ardolino (who also directed Dirty Dancing and Sister Act), was dying of AIDS complications at the time. We all wondered whether he would be well enough to show up to work each day, but he did. It was very sad when he died shortly after we wrapped production.
CC: Anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
PL: Whether it’s your first time or your 12th time, come see Les Miserables!
Interview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.