To a certain generation he was the consummate West End star, but Colm Wilkinson's appearance at the Rising concert has won him a legion of new fans
Legend: Colm Wilkinson performs U2's 'One' for RTE's Centenary concert on Easter Monday.
The most moving part of Centenary, it is generally agreed, was Colm Wilkinson's haunting performance of One by U2, during which portraits of ordinary Irish people were flashed on video screens.
The simplicity and honesty of the moment was deeply affecting. It declared that, despite our differences, we were all of us Irish and on a journey together.
But it was Wilkinson's tingling delivery that truly took the performance somewhere special. A veteran of the stage, Wilkinson (71) will already be familiar to fans of classical music and musical theatre.
However, to a younger generation this may have been the moment they were introduced to the singer, who was born in humble circumstances in Drimnagh and has graced stages across the world.
He will be forever synonymous with Les Miserables, the blockbusting 80s musical in which he played the original Jean Valjean (the role subsequently portrayed by Russell Crowe in the movie adaptation).
Wilkinson was a stunning Valjean, transmitting the same mix of reverence and emotion that he brought to his interpretation of One at the Bord Gais Theatre on Monday.
Indeed, it was arguably his rafter-raising rendition of show-piece ballad Bring Him Home that won Les Mis much of its early acclaim.
He was thus the perfect choice to sing One - bringing a lifetime of experience and an understanding of the ways Ireland has changed, for better or worse, across recent decades.
Wilkinson has lived for most of the past 27 years in Canada with wife Deirdre (they have four grown up children). Yet he remains proudly Irish and has spoken with warmth of his days as an up-and-coming local singer, where he would rub shoulders with future icons such as Luke Kelly of The Dubliners.
What made his emergence as one of the great Irish voices especially noteworthy is his ordinary upbringing. Wilkinson was born in west Dublin in 1944, in the living room of the family home. His father laid asphalt for the council but at weekends strummed a banjo in a trad band. Wilkinson's love of show business was further encouraged by his mother, an enthusiastic performer of amateur drama.
But his rise was not exactly straightforward. Wilkinson passed through local rock groups in Dublin and was cast as Judas Iscariot in an Irish production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar. This opened doors in the West End and Broadway and, eventually, led to Les Miserables.
Yet the musical suffered dreadful early press - so bad, in fact, that producer Cameron Mackintosh considered pulling the show before it turned into a money pit. The reviews were heartless, too, with Les Mis dismissed as gloomy and ponderous. Yet it was its very stateliness that drew audiences and elevated Wilkinson to the highest tier of musical theatre.
"It was complicated, not exactly a bundle of laughs," he told this writer several years ago. "And the critics panned it... They called it 'the glums' because it was so dark.
"Cameron Mackintosh came into the dressing room and said to us 'I just don't understand why the critics don't like it'.
"Then one day he tried to ring the theatre and nobody answered. Eventually someone picked up. They said 'you're lucky you could get through - the phone has been hopping. There are queues around the block'".
Careers in music tend to be short. But Wilkinson has remained at the top by displaying an almost monastic discipline.
"I knew people like Luke Kelly from The Dubliners," he told the Irish Independent in 2013.
"They'd be always saying to me 'oh come out with us'. So once or twice I would go out and inevitably return home very late.
"The next day, in front of an audience, I'd feel it immediately. The energy levels weren't there. Straight away you'd say to yourself 'oh, I shouldn't have been out last night'.
"You have to be totally fixated on your voice and your energy. That is one of the things that is constantly on your mind. It takes over."
Even if Les Mis hadn't come along, he would have had an extraordinary career. At the very moment Mackintosh was lining him up as Jean Valjean, Andrew Lloyd Webber had sounded him out as potentially playing the lead in a curious new production he was testing out.
The impresario wasn't sure it would work - but felt Wilkinson was the man for the job.
"Andrew Lloyd Webber asked me to do Phantom. I was already contracted to do Les Miserables. I did the workshop of Phantom down in his home so they could put something on for potential investors - in the industry they are called 'angels'.
"I remember afterwards sharing a car home with Cameron Mackintosh. He said 'I know Andrew wants you to do Phantom - but I need you to do Les Mis. If it doesn't work out, you can do Phantom'.
"It goes to show - he didn't know whether Les Miserables was going to be successful or not. So I never got to do Phantom. The part went to Michael Crawford instead. I've never been sorry about that choice, by the way."
|The Colm before the storm
@Lin_Manuel: "The Colm before the storm"I'm crying :( @Lin_Manuel: "The Colm before the storm"Why?? @Lin_Manuel: "The Colm before the storm"I'm fascinated by his cheek dimple @Lin_Manuel: "The Colm before the storm"@lapetitelydia love it!! @Lin_Manuel: "The Colm before the storm"these made my day @Lin_Manuel: "The Colm before the storm"verry punny
|Oh Colm all ye faithful
@Lin_Manuel: "Oh Colm all ye faithful"hilarious!!! @Lin_Manuel: "Oh Colm all ye faithful"He has an amazing voice. I wish I'd seen him play Jean Valjean!
|Colm Wilkinson & Colman Domingo duet on a pop single entitled Colm Me Maybe
@Lin_Manuel: "Colm Wilkinson & Colman Domingo duet on a pop single entitled Colm Me Maybe"omg yes! @Lin_Manuel: "Colm Wilkinson & Colman Domingo duet on a pop single entitled Colm Me Maybe"My god, I can hear it. It is glorious
|I am sorry for the Colm puns. I can be a real Colmemierda sometimes
@Lin_Manuel: "I am sorry for the Colm puns. I can be a real Colmemierda sometimes"
@Lin_Manuel has anyone told you to Colm down yet?
Composer of Les Miserables.
At our matinee.
@Lin_Manuel How EXCITING!
@Lin_Manuel!!!!!!!!"Do you hear the people SOBBBBB"
@Lin_Manuel will you EVER get to meet Colm Wilkinson???
@Lin_Manuel Quite the honor.
@Lin_Manuel you always have the best shirts???? im kinda jealous
@Lin_Manuel amazing! you may be smiling in the pic but I'm sure in your head you're singing
"Look down, look down..."
@Lin_Manuel What. That's amazing.
|Colm wilkinson will, as the kids say, wreck my life
@Lin_Manuel who hasn't come to Hamilton that you want to? @Lin_Manuel I'll write my review as an open letter to him if you can arrange review tickets for me.
|READ. NUUUUUUMBER. FIVE. https://t.co/TOQ70BKXdE DID YOU READ IT YET.|
ON THURSDAY 8 OCTOBER 2015VISIT LESMIS.COM/30
THE WEST END PRODUCTION OF
AT THE QUEEN’S THEATRE
CONTINUES TO MAKE HISTORY AS IT
CELEBRATES ITS 30TH ANNIVERSARY
WITH A VERY SPECIAL GALA PERFORMANCE
IN AID OF THE
SAVE THE CHILDREN SYRIA CHILDREN’S APPEAL
FEATURING THE CURRENT COMPANY, MEMBERS OF THE ORIGINAL CAST AND SPECIAL GUESTS
STARTING AT 7.00PM
450 TICKETS AVAILALBLE TO THE FANS
"Colm Wilkinson....what a voice! Hugh, as good as his voice is, has big shoes to fill, if he's not careful he'll be outshone by Colm. Can't wait to see this film!"
We are thrilled to announce that Colm has signed on to play the role of the Bishop of Digne in the movie version of the musical Les Miserables currently set to be released in theatres in December 2012.
Other notable stars also appearing are Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russel Crowe as Inspector Javert and Anne Hathaway as Fantine to name a few. Here is what Colm has to say about being asked to play the role of the Bishop of Digne:
I am delighted to be asked to play the role of the Bishop of Digne in the movie version of the greatest musical ever written Les Miserables. Twenty eight years ago as the original Jean Valjean I started an extraordinary journey with the Bishop of Digne setting me on the long road of reincarnation and salvation. It seems to me as I now take on the role of the Bishop that the journey has ended and I have come full circle. My thanks and appreciation to all who made this possible. I can't wait.
Just a reminder that Colm will be appearing in Season 4 of The Tudors as the ghost of Lord Thomas Darcy. Make sure to tune in!
The Tudors Season 3 is currently being shown in Canada!! Colm appeared in the episode that aired Wednesday October 7th. He will be in the next two episodes as well on October 14th and 21st. Don't forget to watch if you're in Canada!!
Colm will be appearing in season 4 of The Tudors as a ghost. While he was in Ireland for his concert tour he filmed his part in the series. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available!!
Here are two pictures from the filming of Season 4 of The Tudors
Colm with Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Colm with Henry Cavill
Here are a couple of photos from the Memorial Day concert that was shown live on PBS.
Colm with Laurence Fishburne
Colm with Tom Cruise
Colm Wilkinson will be participating in the Memorial Day concert live on PBS on Sunday May 24th, 2009 from 8:00 to 9:30 pm ET (check local listings for the time in your area) For photos and a video click here
Colm Wilkinson participated in Senator Ted Kennedy's birthday Celebration at the Kennedy Centre in Washington D.C. on March 8, 2009. Here are three photos from the event where Colm is shown:
For more coverage click here
Colm with Leonard Cohen
The Colm Wilkinson Fan Club
Canadian Premiere Tour
"Broadway And Beyond The Concert