IF YOU GO
What: Epic story about unrest and revolts among the Parisian peasantry
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 12-Thursday, March 14; 8 p.m. Friday, March 15; 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. Saturday, March 16; 1 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 17
Where: Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, 13350 Edison Parkway, Fort Myers
Cost: $55, $65, $80, $95
Information: Call 481-4849 or go to bbmannpah.com
Something Else: Parking is sometimes chaotic because of evening classes at Edison College. Park farther out and escape the after-show traffic jams.
On the Web: More theater news at The Stage Door blog
8099 College Parkway, Fort Myers, FL
Peter Lockyer's journey toward the role of Jean Valjean in beloved musical "Les Miserables" has taken him around the world.
China. New York. And now, South Beach. There, my first phone call interrupts Lockyer as he attempts to secure a parking spot a few blocks from Ocean Drive at 1 p.m. on a sunny February afternoon.
"Can I call you back?" he asks politely. "I'm trying to parallel park in Miami Beach."
Jean Valjean must seem like a piece of cake after that.
He calls back on his way to News Cafe. After commiserating over Miami traffic (I warn him that red lights and stop signs are merely suggestions), we chat about "Les Mis," his favorite Valjean, the movie and being the first Western musical allowed into Communist China.
Lockyer joined the 25th anniversary tour of "Les Miserables" after playing a different role, Marius, on Broadway for six years.
"Les Miserables," a huge, grand musical based on a Victor Hugo novel, tells the story of Jean Valjean set against the backdrop of a Parisian revolution. Valjean, a convict on parole, is hunted by Police Inspector Javert. The enormous show explores huge themes like loyalty, truth, honor and justice.
And don't forget the soaring, brilliant music, composed by Frenchman Claude-Michel Schönberg.
"You can't beat it," Lockyer said. "You can't have a musical endure this long without the music being phenomenal."
"Les Miserables" is beloved for its many towering, operatic songs, like "I Dreamed a Dream," "Do You Hear the People Sing" and "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." And then there's the Act II showstopper.
That one is Lockyer's favorite. He gets to sing it.
"I am blessed to be able to sing 'Bring Him Home' every night," Lockyer said. "It's one of the best songs ever written."
He wants me to like "Bring Him Home" too. I even get a quick history lesson.
"They wrote it during rehearsals," Lockyer said, warming to a favorite topic. "It didn't exist at first. They were two weeks into rehearsals. They wrote it for Colm Wilkinson who has a beautiful Irish tenor."
In "Bring Him Home," Jean Valjean stands over Marius at the barricade and prays to God.
"I get to take a nice big gulp before singing it every night," Lockyer said, "and I get to know that at least for the time being I get to sing and put my heart and soul into it."
"My absolute favorite Valjean is Colm Wilkinson," Lockyer admitted. "I freely admit that I've stolen stuff from him!"
Wilkinson originated the role of Jean Valjean in New York. Lockyer played the role of Marius on Broadway for six years and acted opposite Wilkinson when "Les Miserables toured China in 2002.
Lockyer describes the experience of performing in China as "kind of magical."
"They didn't really know what to expect," Lockyer recalls of Chinese audiences. "They were so polite during the performance, but afterward, they really showed their appreciation."
The best part of China?
"Just meeting people!" Lockyer exclaims without hesitation.
His dresser traveled two hours by bus to work on the show. She invited cast members back to her home - and even taught them how to make dumplings.
Lockyer has seen the movie, which earned Anne Hathaway an Academy Award.
"Absolutely," he said. "It's kind of awesome that it's in the public consciousness now and hopefully more people will come see us."
When offered the chance for a final word, he takes the opportunity to ask future audience members just one question.
"If you haven't seen it yet, what are you waiting for?"