“It doesn’t get any better than this”: Dean Chisnall on playing Les Misérable’s Jean Valjean to Norwich crowds
PUBLISHED: 10:11 25 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:10 29 January 2020
He dreamed a dream...and then it came true. Ahead of Les Misérables opening at Norwich Theatre Royal, Dean Chisnall explains how it feels to win the role he’s always wanted.
The last time I met Dean Chisnall I asked him what his dream role would be, he answered without hesitation: Jean Valjean in Les Misérables.
That he was also painted bright green and wearing ears on stalks is incidental (he had taken the titular role in Shrek the Musical) although it's nice to see the ever-amiable Dean without the padded ogre suit and face paint ("not a look for Monsieur Valjean," he laughs).
Fast forward five years from that first interview and the actor has landed the job he's always dreamt of in Cameron Mackintosh's spectacular musical, and he couldn't be more delighted: "This is the reason I got into musical theatre. I think this is the first show I ever heard. It's not just a role, it's a privilege.
"It doesn't get any better than this. As far as I am concerned there is no greater feeling and no greater responsibility when it comes to a role - this is the one I have always wanted."
Dean's CV is as glittering as you might imagine for someone who is playing one of the - if not THE - most coveted roles in musical theatre as the haunted hero of Les Mis.
He's been Shrek (and has fond memories of Norwich from his performance as the big friendly giant in 2015) and he's had great roles in musicals such as Blood Brothers, Mamma Mia, Love Never Dies, La Cage Aux Folles and Never Forget.
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But it's this role he's been chasing all along. And for five weeks from March 4 to April 4, Norwich audiences will be able to see him play the character who captured his heart 25 years ago.
The touring production of the show follows a year-long stint as Valjean in the West End production and Dean is enjoying putting his own slant on an iconic role in an iconic musical which has been seen by 120 million people worldwide in 52 countries.
"Everyone brings something different to the role but we never lose sight of what it means to be part of the show - when the orchestra strikes up, you are very aware of the honour, privilege and history of the past 35 years," he said.
"I think the reason Les Mis is so powerful and so wonderful is because there are songs and themes throughout that every single person in the audience can relate to. When you bring that feeling to the people rather than ask the people to come to you in London, it is an enormous responsibility, but also a great celebration of the greatest musical ever written.
"I pinch myself every night that I'm here. There may be some productions where you can, to an extent, fake it but you cannot fake this show."
The love poured in the lavish production by everyone involved is, he says, more than repaid by the audience's reaction to it: "You can hear the audience's emotion and you can sense it. Even though the clue is in the title, it is a very sad piece, but it is also the most uplifting piece of musical theatre."
And Dean is looking forward to returning to Norwich: "I love the city. It has such a lovely vibe," he said, "when we come with Les Mis we are there for a nice period and I am looking forward to exploring and really getting to grips with the city again."
Les Misérables runs from Wednesday March 4 until Saturday April 4, 2020 at 7.30pm with Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Tickets £10-£66.50. Discounts for Friends, Corporate Club, Over-60s and Under-18s.
Book at www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk or call the box office on 01603 630000.
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