CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Lancashire Life today CLICK HERE

Alfie Boe - Fleetwood's most famous son

22:40 03 July 2011

Alfie’s proud mum, Patricia with an anthology of his work

Alfie’s proud mum, Patricia with an anthology of his work

Fleetwood's most famous son has taken the world of musical theatre by storm and will be singing to packed halls during a tour layer this year. Eileen Jones met Alfie Boe – and his mum

It was the song that turned a respected operatic tenor into one of the superstars of musical theatre. And now, as the song demands, they are going to Bring Him Home to Lancashire as part of a national tour.

Alfie Boe, once an apprentice car mechanic and now Fleetwoods most famous son, will be taking to the stage down in Blackpool at the 3,000-seat Opera House, Britains largest theatre.

His last local performance in 2006 was a more modest affair in Fleetwoods Marine Hall when he played to a full house of 600. Back then, there were few outside opera who recognised his name. Now hes accorded star status - since Christmas hes done dozens of TV and radio chat shows, from Aled Jones to Vanessa Feltz.

Hes teamed up for double acts with Little Britain comic Matt Lucas and his solo album, Bring Him Home, has already sold more than 100,000. Tickets for his nine-date national tour have been snapped up so quickly they have added a further 14 nights.

One moment defined Boes meteoric rise and it was that song Bring Him Home, the first he performed on stage as a 14-year-old. Years later, he took the lead role of Jean Valjean in the 25th anniversary concert version of Les Miserables at the O2 Arena. The show was sold out and broadcast live to cinemas.

In an encore Alfie performed Bring Him Home, with three other famous tenors who had played the role. He stepped forward for his solo line: You can take, you can give, let him be, let him live but added a key change which took the song into a new dimension. There was a collective gasp followed by a cheer that would grace a Wembley Cup Final. One critic said: When he performed Bring Him Home it was as if he was Gods anointed vocalist.

Alfie is more modest. It was a just a simple key change, a musical modulation. It just adds a surprising element, he explained when we met at the headquarters of Decca Records in London. The reaction was incredible. But at that moment, I was thinking of nothing, feeling nothing, but the character, the words. I wasnt really aware of the reaction till the end.

Days later it was announced he would take over the role of Valjean in the West End for a five month run, starting in June. Theres talk of a film version and hes now a recording star with sales that opera colleagues can only dream about.

The beard he grew for the Les Miserables role has gone, temporarily, while he performs in The Mikado. It will have to grow back, of course, he said. Welcome news for the online fans who have dedicated a Twitter account to his whiskers.

Cameron Mackintosh spotted the young opera star back in 1994, and a letter from his production team (kept as a souvenir by his mother, Pat) recommended him for the part of Raoul in Phantom of the Opera.

Sadly, Alfie wasnt available because his operatic career was about to take off on Broadway.

He was born in 1973, the youngest of nine children in a large and happy Catholic family which maintained the tradition of sitting down together as a family, especially for Sunday lunch. Thats when his father, Alf, would play operatic arias to the family.

Like most teenage boys, Alfie preferred rock, but he joined a local amateur operatic company, thinking it would be a good way to meet girls. He had never seen a live musical show until he starred in one, singing tunes from the big West End shows. Fate dictated that his first one would be that same showstopper.

At 16, he joined the chorus of amateur productions of Carmen and Il Trovatore in Preston. Those in the know suggested the tenor might go professional. I really wanted to, he said. But I didnt know how.

Instead, at 17, he became an apprentice mechanic in the local TVR car factory, where he spray-painted vehicles. To relieve the boredom, he would often sing. A customer who worked in the music industry heard Alfie and told him the DOyly Carte Opera Company was auditioning. To this day, Alfie doesnt know who the man was.

He made the journey to London and got the job. For 12 months he toured before winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London.
Alfie worked in security to support himself and after graduation he continued training at the National Opera Studio before taking a detour into rock, singing with Lancashires The Clint Boon Experience.

Alfie was soon drawn back to the classical world, and joined the Royal Opera Houses Young Artists Programme. Six months into the two-year course came the moment that defined his operatic career. He ran across London to audition for the Oscar-nominated film maker Baz Luhrmann, and won a part in the New York production of La Boheme.

He starred on Broadway for nine months, stayed on in America to tour with Boston Pops, and met his future wife, Sarah. (They now have a two-year-old daughter, Grace.)

Hed come a long way from Fleetwoods Marine Hall where his mum and dad met. I reckon half of all the couples in the town met there, Pat recalls. It had all the big names at the time. Alf had medals for ballroom dancing and he was a good singer.

Alf died 14 years ago but happily he lived to see Alfies career take off and was in the audience to see him perform in HMS Pinafore.

Patricia Benson, one of Pats 41 grandchildren, dropped by when
I was there on a Sunday afternoon. The 23-year-old is a youth worker in Cumbria. She sees Alfie as a second dad.

He used to pick me up from school. I can always turn to him.
With all her family now moved out, the house is usually quiet these days, so Pat has the radio on all the time and as we were chatting in front of the fire, Alfies voice suddenly filled the room. He was being interviewed by Elaine Page. We sat in silence, mother listening to her son, smiling, with her own memories.

Fleetwood is clearly very fond of Alfie and the affection is mutual. I want to fly the flag for Fleetwood. Its a good little town, it stands strong. Its always stood on its own two feet. And every street has a memory for me.

Read Louise Hulland's tribute to Alfie Boe in her blog

See Alfie on stage

Alfie Boe will play Valjean in Les Miserables at the Queens Theatre, London, from June 23 until November 26, but you can see him closer to home when he stages his national tour.

He plays at the Blackpool Opera House on December 17, Manchesters Bridgewater Hall on January 27 and Preston Guildhall on February 3.


Shop with us at Great British Life

More from People

A portait of Moss Sides Emmeline Pankhurst (Picture: Matzene, Chicago)

As a new film exploring the evolution of the suffragette movement opens this month, Amanda Hodges delves into the Lancashire roots of founder Emmeline Pankhurst

Read more
Yesterday, 13:02
A childhood image of Catherine on the farm

Garstang farmer’s daughter Catherine Simpson has just published her first novel describing how one family tried to beat the milk crisis in an unusual way

Read more
Mon, 15:22
Mary Berry and fellow Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood. (Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon)

Millions tune in to see the Queen of Baking share her culinary wisdom each week on The Great British Bake Off – but how much do you really know about judge and food writer Mary Berry?

Read more
Friday, October 2, 2015
Olivia in Me and Earl and The Dying Girl

She may not be a household name yet but that’s likely to change soon as Olivia Cooke continues her meteoric rise to fame

Read more
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Alexandra Lowe

Budding opera star Alexandra Lowe talks to Jessica Ward

Read more
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
St Michael & All Angels Church and Town Road

A small village packed full of history, Croston is a picturesque day out

Read more
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Lancashire Life Glitz List

Who has made it onto our list of the richest in Lancashire and the Lakes? Financial expert Philip Beresford reveals all

Read more
Monday, September 14, 2015
Ranvir Singh  - Image: Justin Grainge Photos@graingepho

Ranvir Singh’s role as a broadcaster has brought her great success but it hasn’t all been plain sailing, writes Mairead Mahon

Read more
Monday, September 14, 2015
Katie Pegum, Dipali Das, Alison Ferrier, Shannen Potter and Tallis Ward

The WI may be 100 but Lancashire has some thoroughly modern members, as Mairead Mahon discovers

Read more
Gisburn Road

With history, heritage and home-grown businesses, the village of Barrowford may be small but it packs a punch. Words by Rebekka O’Grady

Read more
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Haakon imposing a black pudding tax on local peasants

Just why did the Vikings come to Lancashire, asks Dr Derek J. Ripley. Was it for the black pudding and chips?

Read more
Sunday, August 30, 2015
Piers Linney

Piers Linney grew up in Lancashire and his entreprenural spirit was clear from an early age. Mairead Mahon reports

Read more
Monday, August 24, 2015
JERSEY BOYS The Musical London photo Brinkhoff & M Genburg

From Burnley to the Big Smoke, Helen Ternent is making it on stage in the West End

Read more
Monday, August 17, 2015
Bury New Road

It may not be as well known as Manchester’s other suburbs, but Whitefield is certainly emerging from their shawdows with plenty to see and do. Words by Rebekka O’Grady

Read more

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Lancashire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search