PREVIEW: Mr Jean Valjean himself! Les Misérables' star Killian Donnelly tells all as new broadway show hits Milton Keynes for three-week run!
The king of West End musicals is charging into Milton Keynes next week in an explosive new broadway production never seen before in the UK.
That's right, Les Misérables is taking a holiday from the capital for its first UK tour in 10 years, starting with Milton Keynes on Tuesday.
And for star of the show Killian Donnelly, who has reigned supreme in the role of Jean Valjean in the West End since 2017, he can barely contain his excitement.
"There's a lot of hype already," he said, "because this is the first time the new production will be shown in the UK before we take it to the West End.
"The set is a far more colourful and changing, and the action is very physical compared to what people are used to seeing in the original.
"It's been tailored very much from the score, but what has developed for us is acting through song... I consider myself first and foremost as an actor who can sing!"
This new staging has scenery inspired by the paintings of Les Mis author Victor Hugo,and has already been shown in North and South America, Korea, Japan, Canada, Australia, Spain, France, the Phillippines, Singapore and Dubai
Irish-born Donnelly plunged from the frying pot and into the fire when he left his starring role as Charlie Price in Kinky Boots to take on the lead in Les Misérables two years ago. It was a production he first encountered in 2008 as one of the chorus.
He said: "I was 23 or 24 years old, and I'd already done some things in Ireland but I knew I had to get to London to go further.
"I worked in a pub for three months and I got an agent who said, 'I'll get you an audition for Les Mis'.
"I really didn't think too much of it but I went to the audition and I was told that I had potential..."
Over the years, Donnelly regularly returned to Les Mis off and on, graduating through the ranks to higher roles - including a performance as Combeferre in the 2012 film - before finally succeeding to the part of Jean Valjean in the West End in 2017.
He said: "The problem or perhaps the strength of Les Mis is that there's always something new to dig out from it, there's so much depth and pathos to its story.
"Valjean is the pin that holds it all together.
"Some nights, I can focus on Fantine's story and that will get me through three or four shows. Other times, I'll hone in on Cosette and that brings out the father figure in me.
"But the best thing is when a new understudy comes on, because they bring their own characters with them! Whatever's going on in your life emotionally will spill out in the show."
After reigning in the West End for two years, Donnelly got wind of Cameron Mackintosh's revitalised broadway production and leapt at the chance to take it on its first UK tour.
He said: "They say you're only ever as good as your last job and even after two years, I'm still not done with Jean Valjean! I'm sure he'll help out at the next audition."
Les Miserables plays at MK Theatre from Tuesday, May 14, until Saturday, June 8. To book tickets, please visit www.atgtickets.com/shows/les-miserables/milton-keynes-theatre/.