'Alfie Boe: Live from London' on PBS Review
by, 06-26-2012 at 05:37 AM (3597 Views)
Alfie Boe. It is a cute name, and it is one I had not heard of until two weeks ago. I know a bit about him now. He is 39, married, and the father of a cute little girl named Grace. He plays the drums, is a British citizen, and comes from a large family. He used to work in a car plant before co-workers convinced him to give music a try, and boy, has he given music a try.
You may wonder what I am doing writing about a singer on a forum related to television. It is simple. A couple of weeks ago, PBS aired the entire 3-hour plus Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert. I was mesmerized. I have never read the novel by Victor Hugo that the production is based on, nor have I seen any of the movies or other works that stem from this piece of literature. However, I was enthralled by this musical performance. My only problem is that I needed to understand the story better, so I began to research it. Now I get it, thank goodness. The point, though, is that I was totally taken by a few of the performers, especially the star. Yes, that would be Alfie Boe.
Shortly after the PBS presentation of Les Mis, PBS aired Alfie Boe: Live from London, a concert that was taped this year at the Royal Festival Hall. This is what connects the tenor with TV. American audiences are bound to be seeing more of this man as time moves forward. I also have a peeve to pick with PBS over the broadcast. Having done a ton of Alfie watching on YouTube during the last two weeks, I had high expectations by this broadcast, only I was let down by the public station.
First of all, PBS put this concert in a 90 minute slot, meaning that with pledge breaks, they showed just an hour of it, give or take a few minutes. This means there were 9 full songs or segments not shown that are on the DVD. That's about a half hour, minimum, of footage. Worse, the editing was atrocious. You could easily tell where cuts were made. There was no fluidity to it at all. What a shame.
The choice of what to include or not was not the best, either. For one thing, what struck me about Alfie when I heard him for the first time as Jean Valjean in Les Mis is how powerful his voice is. I mean, wow! When he uses the high register, it is almost like a religious experience. Yet, many of the selections were what I will call the calm choices. With all the editing that went on, I would have made other decisions about what to include.
This is especially true of the closing song that precedes the encore. It is Come What May. I have heard Alfie sing this with British singers, Becky Jane Taylor, Kerry Ellis, and Laura Wright. Admittedly, I really do not know who they are, but they do a decent job. Unfortunately, on this special the female counterpart was, gasp, Melanie C who I believe is the same Mel C of The Spice Girls. Yikes, what a horrid, nasty, screeching experience that was on her part. What the heck was she doing trying to sing Come What May? It was literally cringe-worthy. If she was ill or hoarse or experiencing some other vocal malady, she should have held back instead of trying to match Alfie's dynamic singing. Seriously, how anyone could call that a good performance, I will never know. She was totally out of her element. That song should not be in the special. The two sang another song that was less vocal intensive that did not grate as much. That is the one that should have been used.
The severe editing also cut out Alfie's personality, which is jovial. The man loves to laugh. He interacts with his audiences. He sings opera, but he does it in a way that even opera haters like me actually enjoy it. Very little of this comes through in the edited Alfie Live PBS special. Ultimately, the best performance may have been after the concert was done when Alfie was in studio and did an a capella performance of Rank Strangers. Now that was the Alfie I have grown to admire in a very short time.
If you watch this special and have never heard Alfie Boe sing before, I urge you to run to YouTube and search for him. There are hundreds of selections, most all of which give a better picture of the singer's special gift.
If you do not watch the special, I still urge you to head to YouTube and discover his talents. He sings it all. He apparently earned the moniker of the bad boy of opera because he speaks his mind and sings outside of the operatic norm. He goes from O Sole Mio right into Elvis Presley's It's Now or Never. He gives us ballads like Some Enchanted Evening and then belts out the upbeat religious tune, Jacob's Ladder. He delivers a medley of tunes from the James Bond films and then offers the soft tones of The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face, Hushabye Mountain, and Hotel California. He urges the audience to stand up and dance. He just is not the usual staid or stoic opera singer.
Hopefully, PBS will make better choices for the next time they air an Alfie Boe concert, and I am confident there will be a next time.
Here is a YouTube video of Alfie Boe . This is Alfie literally singing for his dinner. Notice the dog: he is definitely a fan.