When he was 17 years old, a young apprentice was working on cars in a factory in England. To make the day go by faster, and to entertain his fellow co-workers, he would sing different arias while working.
Had it not been for that factory job, the world might not have met Alfie Boe, hailed by many as one of the best performers of a generation.
Boe, fresh off the release of his album “Alfie,” will perform at 8 p.m. Friday at the Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick.
“It was a very different world, I’ve got to say. A really different world,” Boe said. “When I was attracted to singing music professionally, I had a lot of support and a lot of help. I was excited about taking part in a great production, meeting new friends and so on. It was wonderful, really. It was a great opportunity. But yeah, it was very different culturally working with guys in a factory and going to work with people from all different walks of life.”
On his new album, Boe got the opportunity to record duets with Robert Plant, of Led Zeppelin fame, and Nick Jonas.
“It was an amazing process, a wonderful process,” Boe said of working on “Alfie.” “I was in Copenhagen with the orchestra over there and it was a wonderful album to record. It took, I think, nine, 10 hours to record, which is pretty quick with the orchestra. Then I came back to London to record a couple of duets on it. One of them was ‘Song to the Siren,’ that I did with Robert Plant. That was a great experience for me in the recording studio — it was a wonderful moment.”
Jonas, a member of the Jonas Brothers, received glowing reviews for his Marius during the 25th anniversary concert of “Les Miserables,” where he met Boe. Boe played Jean Valjean, a role he has mastered over the years and made his own.
“Working with Nick on my album was incredible,” Boe said. “He’s a great guy, a wonderful friend and a really good singer. We sang ‘Empty Chairs’ together. It was a great opportunity to show the difference in the two duets. You have the one with Robert, who is a mature, seasoned professional, and the young vibrancy of Nick Jonas as well.”
The 25th anniversary of “Les Miserables” was filmed in front of a packed house at The O2 Arena in London. There, Boe’s Valjean brought an incredibly long standing ovation from the audience.
“It was wonderful,” Boe said of being on stage for that concert. “A great day to be involved with that wonderful show with wonderful music. And the audience, even though the audience was so vast, it was really quite an intimate feeling up there on that stage. Everyone that was there was there to support ‘Les Miserables,’ and it was a real loving, warm feeling up there.”
As the audience applauded louder and louder, the camera focused on Boe’s face, and his fans could see an incredibly large smile.
“I was just happy to have gotten through it and to have done as good a job as I did,” Boe said. “It was a great day, a rather hard day, but a fun one. And a very emotional one. There was a lot of emotions on and off the stage as the show went on. Having completed something very special, and to a high standard and very successfully, I was just thrilled. I was over the moon.”
Boe said he hasn’t had a chance to see the Hugh Jackman/Anne Hathaway version of “Les Miserables” currently in theaters, but he knew several of the actors in the movie, including Samantha Barks, who played Eponine in both the anniversary concert and the new film.
In 2014, Cameron Mackintosh, who produced the 25th anniversary concert, will produce a revival of “Les Miserables” on Broadway. Although no one has been cast as the leading man, Boe hints he wouldn’t mind taking Valjean for a spin on Broadway.
“If Cameron gives me a ring, we’ll have a chat about it,” Boe said. “It just depends on time and the commitment period and things like that. I’m just waiting for the phone call, really. I would love to come back to Broadway again. It would be a wonderful opportunity.”
Boe has been in many different shows on stage, but he always goes back to “Les Miserables.” For Boe, he said, it’s about the music.
“It’s the first thing you hear and it’s one after the other and the songs fit,” Boe said. “They’re fantastic tunes that have withstood the test of time. Also the story — it’s a very strong story that has some heartbreak in it and some comedy and all the elements in it that make it a huge roller coaster of emotions.
“I think that’s what people go to the theater for is to experience the emotions and have that escape.”