Former car mechanic turned tenor Alfie Boe talks to Alison Jones about singing, musicals and beards.
Tenor singer Alfie Boe should think about adding Stormy Weather to his repertoire after twice encountering freak conditions on recent tours of America.
“Hurricane Sandy hit our tour in October and we had to cancel one of the shows,” reveals Alfie.
“Thankfully we got out before it struck.
“Then the huge snowfall in New York happened. We got all the shows done but there was a long and scary drive to Pittsburgh in a blizzard.”
With the yo-yoing temperatures Britain has been experiencing recently, who knows what the elements will be throwing at him when he arrives at the NIA next Friday on his Storyteller tour. However, Alfie, aged 39, is confident of a warm reception, even in a venue as large as the arena.
“I have played to bigger crowds than the NIA and there had been a real connection created. I enjoy it. I rise to the occasion and the audience has been right there with me, getting up and dancing, singing along, clapping and having a good time.
“I’ll probably run out into them occasionally.”
If he does, he might encounter one of Alfie’s Arrows. Though it sounds like a rather dangerous idea for tour merchandise, it is in fact a particularly enthusiastic, and organised, breed of fan.
“They’re a group that come to a lot of my shows and they gave themselves that name. I assume they call themselves Arrows from my last name being Boe.”
Though he uses twitter regularly, posting accounts of his life, Alfie tries to keep a professional distance between himself and his admirers.
“I keep myself to myself,” he explains
The man dubbed the “Nation’s Favourite Tenor” does seem to inspire some unusual displays of affection.
“My beard has got its own twitter site. I think it’s called Boe’s Beard.
“I don’t know how it started. Somebody did it who was obviously obsessed with my beard.
“I suppose they are quite fashionable now, through George Clooney, but I’ve had mine for a while. I’ve seen them come and go off a lot of people’s faces.”
Alfie’s travels to America have been part of a campaign to exploit his growing popularity over there.
He was given the perfect introduction thanks to Baz Luhrmann who cast him in his Broadway production of La bohème, a role for which he abandoned his studies on the Royal Opera House’s Young Artists Programme.
Following a nine-month run on the Great White Way, he toured with the Boston Pops. He also met his wife Sarah over there. They now have two children – Grace and Alfie jnr.
“We have got a big connection with PBS (TV network) over there,” says Alfie. “They came on board when I did the Les Misérables concert and also broadcast my live show from the Royal Festival Hall. “We sparked up a bit of a relationship with them which opened the invitation to go to America.
“There’s a growing fan base and it is getting bigger.”
Though his rendition of Bring Him Home from Les Misérables was the cornerstone of his first album, he was a latecomer to the part of Jean Valjean.
He is now forever linked with it thanks to his show stealing performance in the 02 Arena gala celebrating the musical’s 25th anniversary, when he sang it with three previous Valjeans.
Alfie auditioned to play the parole-dodging prisoner in the recent big screen version.
“I went up for it alongside Hugh Jackman. I went first but I think they had definitely decided on Hugh before I even walked in the room because he’s obviously a big name Hollywood actor.”
One would expect him to be curious about the part that got away, but he says he hasn’t seen it. “I have not had chance. I have been on the road quite a bit so just getting to the cinema is a difficult thing. I’d be fooling myself if I said I didn’t want to be in it, it would have been fantastic, but it was not meant to be.”
He still has hopes of doing films at some point.
“Movies are something I’d love to work towards doing. But there is so much going on with the recording at the moment that is taking up a lot of the time. “Hopefully in the next year or so I’ll be able to get some auditions.”
Of course his own story would make the stuff of a Hollywood biopic – the amateur singer from Lancashire who abandoned a job paint spraying at a TVR factory when a man with connections in the music business overheard him serenading his work mates and told him to audition for D’Oyly Carte.
But would Alfie play Alfie or would the role go to an established movie star?
“It’s not really on the cards so I can’t answer but as long as it’s not Danny DeVito that would be fine,” he laughs.
* Alfie Boe is at the NIA on March 22. For tickets, call 0844 338 8000.