PERFORMING the role of Enjolras three times a week and understudying Jean Valjean in the Manchester production of Les Miserables, the first professional production of the musical outside the West End, would have been enough to keep any week full.
However Andy Reiss took on the additional job of resident director while performing (and remains the only person to do so) before a two-year break and returned to the much-cherished musical as resident director for the first UK national tour.
He is a man who carries the Victor Hugo-inspired musical in his heart, so when it came to organising a charity concert with Les Miserables co-star David Fawcett 20 years ago, it was inevitably shaped by the production set in early 19th-century France.
“We used (castmates) Rebecca Vere and Rebecca Thornhillm, then we needed a name and it seemed logical to use the Les Mis connection,” Reiss said.
“After that it just became something we tried to do when we had to recast.”
Beyond the Barricade will tour Australia for the first time, featuring co-creators Reiss and Fawcett with past principal performers Katie Leeming (who has sung Eponine) and Poppy Tierney (who has sung Cosette) as they present songs from Hamilton, The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Evita, Wicked, Miss Saigon, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King and of course, Les Miserables.
“First and foremost it is a concert, without costumes or a set,” Reiss said.
“We attempt to take the audience on a musical journey by recreating the material as if they are listening to the original work. We enjoy ourselves while performing it, and we hope that comes across too.”
The Englishman, who lives in Staffordshire and never attended drama college or had a single singing lesson, said there would never come the day he was finished with Les Miserables.
“I am still booked to take Les Mis masterclasses for groups and societies across the UK, so when I’m not on stage with Beyond the Barricade, I’m directing some class somewhere,” he said.
“I’ve known it in all forms, as an actor, as director and now with Beyond the Barricade as a musician too. I don’t think I could ever watch a production of it again without looking at the speed of the lighting cues, the interpretation of the vocal lines, the characterisations, and anything else that took my eye.”
What: Beyond the Barricade
Where and when: Perth Concert Hall, June 2 and Mandurah Performing Arts Centre, June 3
Tickets: www.perthconcerthall.com.au and www.manpac.com.au