I dreamed a dream…

In 1989 my parents left my sisters, brother and I with my aunts and took a trip to Toronto for a weekend. While there, they saw the mega-musical The Phantom of the Opera. They brought me home a t-shirt and the cassette tape that I played every day in the car… and in my bedroom… and in my sisters’s walkman… I did this for years…

I sang songs from Phantom until I wore the tape out and replaced it with the CD. Colm Wilkinson, singing the title role was chilling. I wanted so very badly to be him. I tried so very hard to emulate him. I’m sure my family still wants to kill me for the torture I put their ears through during those years. Eventually Mum & Dad took me to Toronto to see the show. Colm had left the production by then, but it was still amazing.

Most musical theatre nerds know that just before Phantom was released to the world, another mega-musical was growing in popularity. Les Misérables was a West End hit. And a Broadway hit. And, at the same time my parents were seeing PhantomLes Mis was also a hit in Toronto. For some reason I’ve always had a fierce sense of loyalty. My young mind wouldn’t allow me to be a fan of Les Mis because I was a Phantom freak. I wouldn’t even give it a listen…

Colm Wilkinson and I at the Lord of the Rings opening night party in Toronto.

Fast forward a few years… a now wiser, teen-age me was watching PBS one day when a familiar face and voice came on the TV. There was no mistaking Colm Wilkinson’s voice, but the music was new to me. I soon learned that I was watching the now famous 10th Anniversary concert of Les Misérables. Just as I was years, before with my Phantom cassette, I was hooked. My ferocious loyalty grew three sizes that day and made room in my heart for a second musical. Eventually my father ordered a copy of the VHS tape (which I recently learned my mother still has and watches) so I could watch the concert, sans 25 minute interruptions from the good people at PBS.

I often give credit to The Phantom of the Opera for being the musical that made me want to perform for a living. But it was Les Misérables that made me want to sing. The music was emotional in a way that I couldn’t describe. But later when my teachers told me that people sing in musicals when mere spoken words weren’t enough to convey their powerful emotions, I understood the allure of Les Mis… of ALL musical theatre, really.

Cliff Saunders

Last week my agent informed me that after a series of auditions that spanned well over a year, I had been offered a role in a production of Les Misérables that will be coming to Toronto this Autumn. I will be playing various supporting roles in the ensemble and understudying the role of Thénardier (who will be played by the brilliant Cliff Saunders).

I’ve had the pleasure of acting, singing and dancing in dozens of musicals over the years, this is truly a childhood dream come true. I am grateful for the opportunity and incredibly happy to share this news.


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