Over 55 men have played Jean Valjean on stage around the world since the Original Paris stage cast. Six of this vast number have played Prisoner 24601 on a Broadway stage:
- Colm Wilkinson
- Gary Morris
- Alexander Gemignani
- John Owen-Jones (two Broadway revivals)
- Ramin Karimloo
- Alfie Boe
John Owen-Jones returned to the Broadway cast of Les Miserables on March 1, 2016, after playing Phantom of the Opera. He had played the Phantom before as well—back in 2001. He stayed in this role until 2005.
This month may mark the start of Owen-Jones’ second time playing Valjean on Broadway, but it’s actually his fifth time in the role. We might venture to say he knows Jean Valjean’s character just as well as Victor Hugo himself.
Owen-Jones isn’t the only musical actor to have played both the Phantom of the Opera and Jean Valjean. Colm Wilkinson was once offered the role of the Phantom after helping Webber develop it, but turned it down in favor of playing Valjean. Ramin Karimloo played the Phantom in London in 2010 (as well as Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny in London in 2003. 50% of the musical actors who have played Valjean on Broadway also played the Phantom in a production of Phantom of the Opera.
We didn’t look up the professional careers of all 55+ actors to wear the number 24601—but it’s worth exploring the connection between these two roles.
Vocal Range & Ability
Both require a strong voice. The Phantom must cover an impressive vocal range from low Ab3 to high Ab5—this means he must be able to sing all the way through two whole octaves. Valjean isn’t as demanding a role, but all the same covers notes from a low G#3 to a high B5—which is about an octave and a half. Javert requires a broader range, but he has fewer musical numbers. Thenardier also requires a broader vocal range than Valjean, but has fewer numbers than Javert.
Both roles require a strong presence. Perhaps this is more the key. Not to downplay other male roles in either Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables—for they’re all crucial and wonderful in their own right—but Valjean and the Phantom are both roles that require near-perfect magnetism.
Perhaps there are only so many musical actors in the world who can encompass both the skill and emotive presence required for both of these roles. Either way, Owen-Jones has already been recognized for his performances in both musicals; audiences are sure to enjoy a seat at the Imperial Theatre in New York City, where Les Miserables will play for the remainder of its run (set to end in early September 2016). Find cheap Les Miserables tickets to future and last-minute shows at On Broadway.