When my daughter was a toddler, she would want me to read the same storybook to her over and over, endlessly. I couldn't understand how she could enjoy something enough to do that. Now I get it. My epiphany arrived with the unlikely name of Alfie Boe. Last week I tuned into a PBS show already in progress - the 25th Anniversary of Les Miserables, taped in London. It was one of those fundraisers that PBS hosts, with local hosts imploring viewers to send in money to keep PBS programs on the air. And, in between the pledge drive exhortations, there was Alfie Boe playing the lead, Jean Valjean. (Thanks, PBS, I look forward to receiving my tote bag!)
I tuned in just in time to hear him sing Bring Him Home with its range of low and almost impossibly high notes. Alfie Boe nailed it. And he did it with such sweetness and pathos and power that his ovation went on for long minutes, and that was just in my living room. I was blown away. I replayed it several times, moved to tears by this man whose singing seemed so effortless. Of course I didn't know his name and didn't recognize him. That's where Google and YouTube came in. By the end of the program, I knew he was Alfie Boe, the youngest of nine children from an Italian family in Blackpool. And I knew that I wanted to hear him sing anything... repeatedly... even opera, which I generally loathe.
Luckily, he and his friends have mastered YouTube and there were dozens of clips of him singing everything from opera arias to Jingle Bell Rock. It's clear from watching the videos and scanning the internet that he is hardly an unknown. Even with the unlikely name of Alfie Boe, he is well on his way to becoming a star, at least in Great Britain. His voice is stunning.
My fingers are crossed that Boe isn't turned into a blow-dried idol with a more traditionally "star-like" name whose fame eventually eclipses his talent. It helps that he's in Great Britain where they are less inclined to insist that famous people fit a mold.
I'm just so grateful that, even at my age, surprises are still possible and that I can be reduced to a star-struck groupie of sorts. I hope you'll listen to Alfie Boe singing The Impossible Dream or Bring Him Home... his voice reminds us all that there is a huge difference between fame and talent though, in the best cases, they go hand in hand. Gotta go, I have to cue up Bring Him Home again.