Nothing miserable about John

JOHN Owen-Jones is a bit of a novelty in the modern musical theatre.

For a start he has never been in X-Factor or any of the other televised karaoke contests or Britain's Got (debatable in many cases) Talent.

Nor has he come through that other fast track to stardom, one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's televised auditions-come-advertising-campaigns paid for by the BBC.

He hasn't even been in Coronation Street or EastEnders and he can even sing and act - but we won't hold all that against him.

He has been voted the best Jean Valjean Ever and Best Les Misérables Performer Ever in an online worldwide poll of fans of Les Mis and when he first took on the role in 1998 he was, at 26, the youngest actor to ever play the role.

He is also the longest-running Phantom in the show's West End history with over 1400 performances from 2001 to 2005.

He is currently in the 25th Anniversary touring version of Les Mis and next next month returns to Phantom.

Not surprisingly he has built up a solid fan base, one on Amazon describes him as the best tenor in the world - he isn't but it was a nice thought.


He is a worthy star of musical theatre though and his CD, named with startling originality John Owen-Jones. is a treasure trove of songs from lesser known musicals as well as songs that have helped make the singer famous such as Music of the Night and Bring Him Home. The latter raising the hairs on necks when he sang it this summer when Les Mis came to Birmingham Hippodrome. Indeed the CD is worth the money just for that one track.

The real interest though is the songs from musicals that many people will never of even heard of and it is fair to say that the songs which are included here are certainly not the reason these shows never made it big. 

There are songs such as Pretty Lady from Stephen Sondheim's Pacific Overtures, a track featuring Michael Ball and Bryn Terfel in what is a complex three part song in a musical which has been staged by English National Opera among others.

There is also I'd Rather Be Sailing from the little known William Finn musical A New Brain as well as the lively Proud Lady from Stephen Schwartz's musical The Baker's Wife which opened in the West End in 1989 but closed after just 56 performances because, despite good reviews, there were not enough bums on seats and it was losing money.

Maury Yeston's In The Beginning musical based, loosely on the first five books of the Old Testament, provides the lovely New Words while the Gregory Boyd and Frank Wildhorn musical The Civil War, which has never made it to Britain, provides the sad Tell My Father.

There is also a beautiful version of Jason Robert Brown's  Someone to Fall Back on from his Wearing Someone Else's Clothes album.


The final track from the musicals is the rousing Anthem from Chess before you reach the final, final track which is Myfanwy sung a cappella. Personally I think it probably helps if you are very Welsh and very well lubricated for this one but as it is described as a bonus track we will forgive Mr Owen-Jones expressing his Celtic roots.

What you do have is a varied collection of songs from the musical theatre sung with John Owen-Jones's voice of an angel.  It is a CD that really does deserve to be called easy listening.

If you want to try before you buy then the album is on Spotify or you can her excerpts on Amazon.

Meanwhile John Owen-Jones will be back at Birmingham Hippodrome in a sort of Phantomfest for one night only on Sunday 20 February 2011 - with tickets on sale from October 13.

The Thee Phantoms stars . . . well three Phantoms or at least three actors who have played the role with with John Owen-Jones,  Earl Carpenter who is Javert in the 25th anniversary tour of Les Mis and and Matthew Cammelle who is currently in the international tour of Mamma Mia which is nothing like Phantom or Les Mis but like his colleagues on that night he has won his spurs in both musicals.

Earl Carpenter said “We are very excited to be returning to Birmingham Hippodrome with this new show.

“We are particularly delighted to announce that Rebecca Caine, who played Christine opposite Michael Crawford in the original cast of Phantom of the Opera, will be our very special guest making this a truly spectacular and memorable evening.”

Conducting the Concert Philharmonic Orchestra will be Anthony Gabriele who is the current musical director of The Phantom of the Opera ay Her Majesty's Theatre in the West End.

The show will celebrate both Phantom as well as being an evening of songs from West End musicals by three of the country's leading stars.

Roger Clarke 

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