Peter Lockyer is a good-looking guy. Those eyes, those cheekbones, those lips. That smile, that laugh, that voice. And what a voice! With the assistance of the wonderful Diana Roth from the PGH Cultural Trust (who will be getting a bouquet of roses any minute now), I was lucky enough to talk with him yesterday about the role of a lifetime and have that voice in my ear for seven wonderful minutes. He plays Jean Valjean, musical theater’s most hunted man. And, in the hands of Peter Lockyer, it’s most handsome too.
“I can take no credit,” Peter says with a laugh when I tell him my reaction when I first came across his head shot. (I believe I said to my friend, “ooooooh.”) But if he didn’t have much to do with his Disney prince hair and Gillette model jaw line, he had plenty to do with the hair and makeup that so convincingly turns him into man decades older than his mid-thirties self.
“Its great to have the help of wigs,” he tells me, “and I actually do the makeup, so it’s nice to be able to change my appearance a little bit for this character. But it’s not abnormal for a guy a decade and a half younger than me to play [him].”
Ah yes, but can they do it with Peter’s style and machismo? His interpretation of Jean Valjean is more rawboned, more vulnerable, more impassioned than I’ve ever seen. I tell him this, and he laughs graciously. It’s a wonderful sound – part middle notes of a cello, part burgundy wine. I compliment him again, this time on his performance in the 25th Anniversary Production of Les Miserable, then ask how in the world he came up with such a unique Jean Valjean. Says Peter: “I might take some things further than before, but I take aspects I know about [Valjean] and have seen and stretched it a little. When I came into the show, they talked about it being a grittier, faster version, more in your face. [Physically] I’m a little wirey so I thought I could use more aggression to show strength.”
I ask if he sustained any war wounds taking on such a physically demanding role and he laughs as he says, “Well, in the beginning, my back was sore from lifting Marius but as in anything, you get stronger. To answer you further, I had met some people in prison for a little while and often times, when you’re in there and you come out into the world, you have a reactionary sense of the world. So I wanted to take that a little further in the opening section of the show and show a sense of reacting to the world around him.”
The Post Gazette said Peter brought youthful vigor to the performance. Ironically, in his youth, he played Marius first. Was it weird making such a character change? “No. In fact, surprisingly, it wasn’t weird at all. I played Marius for six years so I feel like I got it out of my bones.”
The conversation moves on from character development to the show itself. In an interview with ragemonthly.com back in August of last year, Peter explained why he believes the show has such resonance and staying power. He stated then: “I think Victor Hugo’s novel is so sprawling and epic with so many characters that I think it all represents all of human life. Each character represents some aspect or facet of the human experience.”
What drea – I mean, wise words. I can’t help but ask that, after playing Marius for 6 years and now Jean Valjean for the past several months into the foreseeable future, what the most important life lesson he’s taken from this musical. He thinks about it a moment, then replies, “Intellectually, we know that life is about the process and not necessarily the result sometime, and certainly in this production, taking the journey I get to take every night from a man who is at first reactionary and then accepts edifying choices in his life…[I realize] it is indeed about the journey and not to get stuck on the small things.”
Beauty, brawn and brains. Peter Lockyer really is the ultimate triple-threat. And oh yeah, he’s not a bad singer either. 🙂 (That’s an understatement by the way.) To see how much of a not bad singer he is, click here to purchase tickets for the last week of shows. Click here to read my full review where I use words like “broad” and “strong” and “bench press with ease”. As well as words like “treasure trove” and “electrifying”. And finally, click here to follow Peter on Twitter, where he gives tons of behind the scenes info, like how he dedicated two shows to everyone in the NHL for finally ending the lockout!