We chat to Ramin Karimloo before he hits Australia in his Concert with special guest Anna O’Byrne

Ramin Karimloo is a name which speaks for itself. Unless, that is, you have been living under a tremendously giant, theatre-less rock.

The Broadway and West End legend has definitely made his mark on the Musical Theatre world as of late, having already played some of the most iconic roles in theatre history as well as originating plenty more.

His most notable performances were as the titular character in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom Of The Opera, and reprising the character in the following sequel, Love Never Dies. Furthermore, he has played Feuilly, Enjolras, and Jean Valjean in London’s longest running musical, Les Miserables, and was transferred for his Broadway debut in the latter role, earning him a Tony Award Nomination for Best Actor in a Musical. Most recently, he originated the role of General Gleb Vaganov in Ahrens and Flaherty’s stage adaptation of their movie success Anastasia on Broadway. Later this year, he will go on to play Che in Evita in Tokyo, but for now, he’s coming down under!

Ramin will be accompanied by a special guest – the endlessly talented Australian beauty Anna O’Byrne. Anna is known for her Helpmann Award winning portrayal of Eliza Doolittle in Julie Andrews’ My Fair Lady, as well as performances as Christine Daaé in the Australian season of Love Never Dies and Laura in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s London revival of The Woman In White. The pair will be performing across the country for three shows only – in Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast.

Melbourne-born performer Anna O’Byrne features as a special guest

To say that my admiration for Ramin is great would be a gross understatement. The capabilities he has as a performer are truly remarkable – it’s not every day that a performer gets to play the lead in the longest running shows on both Broadway and the West End. I got to talk to Ramin about everything from his inspirations to his motivations.

When did you discover that performing was what you wanted to do as a career?

I was about 11 when music became an influence for me. Johnny Cash, The Tragically Hip, Tracey Chapman and Kenny Rogers. I remember those records and cassettes around the house and I loved unique sound of these voices and the stories they told.  Then I saw Phantom of the Opera when I was about 12 with Colm Wilkinson, who has the most incredible and unique voice and I thought “that would be pretty cool to do.”

Karimloo as General Gleb Vaganov in Anastasia

I believe you went straight from Anastasia to Chess before heading down here, and are heading off to a production of Evita as soon as you’re done with your concerts. How do you manage jumping from show to show in such a short time span?

Change feeds growth, I believe.  So you just prepare one thing at a time. You just have to be focused with your time and disciplined.  But when it’s something you love to do, it’s not such a hard thing.

You have been part of Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables productions which have spanned over several years at a time. How do you keep a show or role fresh when you’ve played them for such a long time?

I haven’t been in the shows for long contracts.  I believe 18 months was the longest as Phantom and Valjean. Valjean was over 3 cities as well, London, Toronto and New York, so that change was a catalyst to renewed energy.  But regardless, these are great roles to play and whether they are short contracts like mine or long ones like others do, I think the process before each performance remains.  I just approach each show like the first. Well, as best I can.

Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess in the 25th Anniversary production of The Phantom of the Opera

You’ve played both Raoul and The Phantom – did you have a particular favourite of the two?

No, both roles were incredible to play and a lot of fun.  Phantom obviously has some incredibly scenes that are extremely fulfilling to play.

Your theatre credits extend over a large variety of shows and styles, from Murder Ballad to Sunset Boulevard – how do you fully prepare for a new role?

It depends on the show.  If there’s helpful literature, such as a novel, I would most likely start there. I’d figure out where the writer got their inspiration, then follow my imagination from there and put together my ‘puzzle’.  Then just ‘play’ in rehearsals. See how things develop with the director and build the character from there.

Have there been any characters you have played that you have personally connected to?

I think there’s been a personal connection to each character I’ve played on some level.

Have you ever been to Australia before? Is there anything you’d like to do while you are down here?

I’ve never been to Australia. I’m grateful I get to see three great places (Sydney, Melbourne, and the Gold Coast). When I travel with a show or concerts, I appreciate that my schedule might allow for as much as I would like to do, so I’m happy to go with the flow when I arrive and just see what happens. There’s so much to see and do.

You’ve written and released some of your own music, as well as countless covers of Musical Theatre standards. What can we expect from your concerts?

I think the answer is in the question. My concerts are a chance for me the band to have a lot fun and play things we all love and have a passion for – great songs with great stories.  It’s an eclectic mix, but the thread is that these are great stories. That’s why I love country, folk, bluegrass, songs from the shows. They have emotion, story, and beautiful melodies.

Is there a particular role that you’d love to play at some point in the future?

Sure. Anything that’s challenging and pushes my boundaries. Whether that’s a revival or a new piece. I’m happy to see myself out of my comfort zone.

Karimloo with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sierra Boggess

You’ve performed both on Broadway and the West End, as well as various other regional and international locations. What’s it like performing to different audiences from all walks of life?

I’m grateful I have had the chance to do that and the chances to do it.  It’s amazing to see how much support there is around the world for these shows and myself.  Each have their own energies and way of showing the support but it’s pretty exciting to see that we all share a common interest with this music and these shows.

Some of your roles have spanned over long runs, some even lasting several years. Do you have any recommendations on how to stay in peak form for a performance?

Well, how I live my life is how I would like to live my life. The roles fit in around that. I always try and keep myself fit because I enjoy the physical challenges in the gym or at CrossFit. Time with the family is most important to me, especially staying happy and fulfilled with them. Doing what I need as a human being and enjoying my life.

Karimloo as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables (Broadway)

If you could go back in time, is there anything you would say to past Ramin?

Don’t worry and stress so much.  Don’t worry about what other people think, because it really doesn’t matter one bit.

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring theatre performers?

Stay hungry, don’t be lazy, and don’t be lead by ego.

Tickets for Ramin Karimloo in Concert are available at the Concertworks website

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of AussieTheatre.com. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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