Colm Wilkinson is having an exciting holiday season. He's about to appear in Tom Hooper's much anticipated film adaptation of Les Miserables, he's embarking on a Canadian tour featuring songs from his hit album Broadway and Beyond and he was just given an honourary doctorate from Ryerson University.
Perhaps best known for originating the role of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables and for being Toronto's original Phantom in the Phantom of the Opera, Colm has had an illustrious career on worldwide stages and has begun doing more film and television work. His show Broadway and Beyond was a sold-out smash last summer in Toronto, and now he's added in some Christmas tunes and is taking it on the road.
BWW caught up with Colm to talk about his tour, as well as find out more about his honourary doctorate, the secret to his longevity and of course, the Les Miserables feature film:
First off, congratulations on your honourary doctorate! What was the highlight of the evening for you?
It was a great honour and a fantastic day. There were 350 students graduating that day and I got to deliver a speech - plus my family was on hand and my kids delivered a fantastic roast which was quite funny. Adam Brazier was on hand from Theatre 20 and he performed a piece called "What Can We Say About Colm?" that was commissioned for me as a gift and written by Nicky Phillips. It was fantastic.
This concert is called 'Christmas and Beyond', how much of it will be Christmas songs as compared to what we're used to hearing from you?
It's mostly the same line-up as the Broadway and Beyond stuff, and I've got Susan Gilmour and Patricia O'Callaghan joining me again. So it'll be a mix of Irish music and Broadway stuff, with the goal of making sure everyone has a great time and gets to sing along, dance in the aisles and enjoy themselves. I will also be including Silent Night, O Holy Night and a great Bee Gees tune called The First of May.
I saw your concert back in the summer and your energy was phenomenal, how do you do that night after night?
I do not know to be honest! I suppose I've been very fortunate in terms of my longevity and my voice and the way it has held up over the years. I hope to be able to keep on doing what I'm doing until I can't do it anymore. I also make sure to limit my talking, get enough sleep and look after myself physically. As I tell my children, the first thing is always health. Get sleep, don't party, don't do drugs or drink. If your body is right then you will be right, and if your body is wrong you will be wrong. Live like a Buddhist monk!
Is it worth it?
Sometimes! *laughs* I'm still surprised at how I sound and I know I'm very fortunate. I can still do a lot of the songs in the original key and I think that this show represents me well musically which is all I could ever ask. I've also been fortunate to have my amazing wife Deirdre by my side all these years, and she takes fantastic care of me.
What is the most challenging part of a tour like this?
Probably staying healthy while on the road. When you're getting on plans and traveling all over the place it can be very hard to keep yourself healthy and avoid catching a cold. Thankfully Deirdre comes on the road with me which I think helps a lot.
You're one of the founding artists of Theatre 20, what did you think of Bloodless, their first musical out of the gate?
I was sad to have to drop out of directing Bloodless due to scheduling conflicts, but Adam (Brazier) came on board and I think it was a huge accomplishment that they got this show on stage. It is still a work in progress but it has incredible potential and Joseph (Aragon) is very talented. The whole Theatre 20 group did an amazing job with that show, and I think they should be applauded for their efforts instead of being nit-picked and criticized. When you look at a brand new musical like that you know that there are going to be flaws, but to have a young group with limited resources stand up and take that kind of a chance is commendable.
Do you think that the fact that they were brand new and working with limited resources should have been taken into consideration when reviewing the piece?
Absolutely! This is a brand new musical, it's not like they could have YouTube'd it and looked at previous productions to get an idea about what they were going to do. They had nothing to go on and had to build it from the ground up which is a massive undertaking. I was there at the start for about five or six months and I know how much work went into this show. This group is passionate and really in tune with the business - they're eventually going to do something earth shattering.