Jeremy Secomb, London’s Javert, on Playing a Baddie in Les Miserables

first_img View Comments Jeremy Secomb moved to London from his native Australia over 17 years ago, since then he has risen through the ranks to become a West End leading man. Last year, he won raves in the title role of Sweeney Todd in a pint-sized production just next door to the Queen’s Theatre, where he is currently starring as Javert in Les Miserables—a production he joined last June. The genial actor spoke to about taking on projects large and small and why, for the moment anyway, he isn’t burning to play Jean Valjean.Are you excited to have your first leading role in the West End be in a musical?Absolutely! I’ve been here for a good while and done quite a few jobs but this is my first principal role apart from Sweeney Todd, and that of course was in a tiny production whereas this is the original Les Miserables.Yes, and how many original productions of any show are still running?I was playing Javert the night of our 30th anniversary and Cameron Mackintosh said how the show was going to outlive us all and what an amazing achievement it was to be a producer of something that’s going to outlive everyone who’s ever done it.Did you know the show well before you came to be in it?Funnily enough, I did an amateur production when I was in my early 20s back in Australia, up on the Gold Coast in Queensland. I played Joly, one of the students—this must have been around 1993 or 1994.Is it hard to make the role your own with such a long-running show? It is a challenge because so many people move in and out of these shows and there are restraints but the fantastic thing with Les Miz is that we had a proper rehearsal schedule with the resident and associate directors and talked a lot about the characters. Some shows you go into, all you get is, “Stand there, sing the line and exit.” But on this one, we went quite in depth.Javert gets to make a strong impression with not that much stage time.The major difference between playing Valjean and Javert is that Valjean has this amazing arc that the audience sees since he is onstage 90 percent of the time whereas Javert comes on and has his moments and exits so you don’t actually see as much of an arc.In other words, you have to do more with less.Precisely, and the added challenge with Javert is that the audience on the whole thinks he’s the baddie whereas of course you can’t play a baddie. I don’t think he’s coming from that place. To me, he’s someone who has his mind on the job. The fact that it’s all about justice means that as far as Javert is concerned, Valjean has broken the law: it’s there in black and white.Do you ever think you’d like to cross over and play Valjean as several performers have done?It’s certainly a fantasy role to play Valjean but I’m extremely happy where I am at the moment. What’s particularly nice is because I’ve spent years and years singing high in parts like Piangi, the operatic tenor in The Phantom of the Opera, it’s quite nice for me for a change to do more than just sing high.You mention The Phantom: is that role on your wish list?I actually understudied the role while I was playing Piangi and got to go on quite a few times. It’s an incredible role to play, and one day I’d love to do it for a proper run; that would be a dream for me. But there are a lot of people that all want to play it, so I’m one person in a long line.Playing Sweeney in a chamber production seating fewer than 70 people must have been pretty staggering.It was amazing and at no time more surreal than when we had Angela Lansbury there in the audience—that was about as surreal as having Mr. Sondheim looking up at us. I had four weeks where I was playing Sweeney at night and rehearsing Javert during the day. That was knackering!Why do you think these mega-musicals, especially Les Miz, have endured so long?With Les Miz, I think it’s that the whole journey touches everyone, so every single person that comes to see it—whether a 10-year-old right through to people in their 80s and 90s—can relate to a particular point of anyone’s story in this show. I mean, everyone has lost a member of their family or a close friend.The musical possesses a mysterious alchemy, in a way.The fact that it was first done at the Royal Shakespeare Company and also has one of the best scores that has ever been written and has been directed and designed in such an iconic way so that it’s simple to watch and you can follow it easily—it’s the perfect storm: the stars aligned, and 30 years later it’s still going strong.last_img

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