Portraying prisoner 24601

Piterman to shine on West End once more

Ten years after his first audition for Les Miserables, Josh Piterman will return to the West End to play Jean Valjean in the latest production.

Photo: Graham Jepson
Photo: Graham Jepson

When musical theatre–classical crossover artist Josh Piterman was young, he fell in love with Les Misérables. He even auditioned for his very first musical – at school – with Master of the House. Now, he’s absolutely chuffed to be playing Jean Valjean in the West End production. And it comes hot off the heels of his stint as the Phantom in Opera Australia’s production of Phantom of the Opera. He calls both roles “incredible men to play”.

“I’m so interested in the craft of it all, and the depths and nuances of all the characters,” he told The AJN. “And also the wonderful scores that I get to sing. I mean the Lloyd Webber score is magnificent, as is Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil’s. They’re just iconic.”

Piterman finished up as Phantom last week, writing on Instagram, “After almost 400 performances between London, Sydney and Melbourne, it’s goodbye for now.”

Next week, he’ll arrive in London for his Les Mis journey

Piterman explained that Les Mis is the musical that eluded him for some time, having auditioned for it twice before. Both times, he was unsuccessful. But, he says, all his auditions have been a lesson in perseverance.

“I think there’s something about that, especially for young musical theatre performers who audition for shows and go ‘oh, I didn’t get that job, forget about it,’ and then move on with life and do something else. Just persist and persist, and continue to believe in yourself and you will get another opportunity,” he said. “For me, it’s 10 years down the track. I think it’s testament to sticking to your path and acknowledging adversities, and acknowledging that things don’t always go your way, but that’s okay. You can’t be successful in every audition attempt.”

Piterman is excited to stick his teeth into his new role as Valjean. Explaining that while he first fell in love with the music of Les Mis, he has become far more interested in the characters and their journeys.

“I spent a lot of time in lockdown studying Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. And, you know, I feel like Jean Valjean goes on the most quintessential of hero’s journeys, [looking at] what adversity means to a person, how they get through it all.

“We all have our own adversities, and so I choose to call upon many of my own to find my way into the heart and soul of that man and I really look forward to doing it. I’m already exploring lots of it, but I can’t wait to hit that rehearsal room and continue to find all of that,” he said.

While Piterman acknowledges that there have already been many versions of the character, he has tried very hard to find his own version of Valjean.

“I’ve had my parts of the score on piano, so I have that in my ears, and the rhythms and note values, not the … Colm Wilkinson or John Owen-Jones interpretations or any other individual’s interpretation,” he explained. “I have the absolute source material now flooding through my head, and I can take from that my own interpretation of it.”

Piterman has stopped listening to any other version to ensure a blank slate.

When asked how it feels to be returning to West End, Piterman didn’t hesitate. “It’s like I’m going back home,” he said. “This is the third stint of performing I’ve done there, I have so many friends and so much family. I just have such a support base and network there. I’m super grateful for it because you know, these moments and these opportunities really are rare, and so I’m just grabbing it with both hands and I’m just gonna get all the juice out of it for the memory bank.”

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