Our top 6 Jean Valjeans in the West End production of Les Misérables
Les Miserables is one of the West End’s iconic productions, entertaining audiences across London since 8th October 1985. With the original production coming to a close and a new production set to open at the soon-to-be-named Sondheim Theatre in December 2019, we take a look at some of the best actors to have previously played Jean Valjean in London. Once you’ve read about all the actors to have stood on the barricade, let us know who your favourite actor is by casting your vote for your favourite Jean Valjean at the end of the article.
Jean Valjean in the West End
Alfie Boe first played Jean Valjean in the 25th-anniversary concert of Les Miserables, staged at the O2 Arena in 2010. A year later, Boe made his Queen’s Theatre debut, reprising his lead role performance for a limited engagement from 23rd June to 26th November 2011. In 2015, he returned to playing ‘24601’ at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway. Later this year, Boe will star as Valjean in the all-star concert of Les Miserables at the Gielgud Theatre opposite Michael Ball as Javert and Matt Lucas as Thénardier.
Originating the role of Jean Valjean in the West End, Colm Wilkinson has appeared in a number of Les Miserables’ across the world, including London, Broadway and Canadian productions. With ‘Bring Him Home’ written for him, it is no surprise that Wilkinson has reprised this song in concerts celebrating the music of Les Miserables, including the 10th Anniversary Concert at the Royal Albert Hall and as part of a ‘Valjean Quartet’ in 2010 alongside Alfie Boe, Simon Bowman and John Owen-Jones.
First playing Jean Valjean in 1998, John Owen-Jones was the youngest person at the time to have taken on the lead role in Les Miserables. He returned to the original production on 27th June 2005, where he performed at the Queen’s to 6th October 2007. However, the West End actor only had a fortnight away from the stage, as he took over the role in the Broadway production on 23rd October 2007. Appearing in touring productions of Les Miserables as well as playing Valjean on the 25th Anniversary Tour and set to reprise his leading role in the upcoming all-star concert, Owen-Jones is one of the West End’s notorious Valjean’s.
After being scouted in Ireland, Killian Donnelly made his West End debut as a swing in Les Miserables. Working his way up through the cast, Donnelly covered roles including Javert, Enjolras and Jean Valjean, however he did not assume the lead role until 2017. Currently playing the lead role on the show’s national tour, Donnelly has also starred in Kinky Boots as Charlie Price and Memphis as Huey.
First starring as Jean Valjean in Australia, Simon Gleeson joined the West End cast of Les Miserables in December 2016. Having starred in productions across three continents, Gleeson’s performance as Valjean has earned him international acclaim, nominated for an Australian Helpmann Award. Gleeson first performed in the West End in 2005, starring in The Far Pavillions.
As the final actor to play Jean Valjean in the original West End production of Les Miserables, Dean Chisnall rounds off a star-studded history of actors in the role. Taking over the role in 2018, Chisnall’s West End credits include the titular ogre in Shrek the Musical, as well as appearing in Love Never Dies and Evita.