Last week I wandered behind the looking glass,and found it to be a fascinating place. While channel surfing one evening, I happened upon a slight man with a tremendous voice singing "Bring Him Home" from "Les Miserables" on PBS. It turned out to be British tenor Alfie Boe on the 25th Anniversary Concert of "Les Miz" at the O2 in London. I had never heard of him but was so taken with his portrayal of the musical's main character, Jean Valjean, that I felt compelled to write about him. My basic message to Americans, who are much less likely to be familiar with him than Britons, was that they should take notice of this powerhouse singer. I wrote the short blog while alternately listening to Boe sing "The Impossible Dream" and "Bring Him Home."
Who knew that he had such a following? I was taken to task for saying that he was from Blackpool, England. While he was in fact born there, he grew up in Fleetwood -- as was pointed out to me by several of the legions of middle-aged women who seem to know his history in all its minutiae. Alfie Boe is as beloved by women of a certain age as Justin Bieber is by girls of a lesser age. Boe's Facebook page has over 6,000 devoted followers. A quick sampling reveals that many of them are older women who discuss his physical attributes (beard or no beard), how kind he seems, which concerts of his they plan to attend, what is being said about him in the press, whether he will be cast in the soon-to-be-filmed version of "Les Miserables." Some of their profile pictures show them posing with Alfie, who, in addition to the Facebook page, tweets and has a robust presence on YouTube.
I'm ashamed to say that between raising a child, working and taking care of the endless duties associated with being a grownup, I've lost touch with the part of me that once taped photos of Davy Jones and David Cassidy to my bedroom walls. My magazine subscriptions have trended more toward home decorating and parenting, and my musical selections have been dictated by Pandora and Sirius radio. And yet there clearly was a small part of me that longed to rediscover the thrill of infatuation that I had discarded along with padded shoulders and legwarmers.
Alfie Boe. Clearly those two words have inflamed the passion of countless women across the pond and are gaining traction on our shores. And why not? His voice reflects strength and manliness, along with tenderness and passion. Unlike the idols of our youth, who were less about substance and more about flash, Boe reflects many of the characteristics that we have found (or sought) in our own adult mates. He is an idealized version of the dreams and desires many of us have as we head into our advanced years. My endless loop of Boe songs while I work makes me understand my mother's adoration of Pavarotti. It all seems very healthy. His choice of songs is also a throwback to our youth ("If I Loved You," and "As If We Never Said Goodbye"), his rich tenor voice reminding us of songs our parents played for us once upon a time.
So to all you women who eagerly await new tweets and Facebook postings by Mr. Boe, I salute you. He has an amazing reserve of talent and a face full of tenderness and heart. He likely will never disappoint you by forgetting to take out the trash or bring home milk. And his voice will soothe (or excite) us all for decades to come. And while I may not yet qualify to join your ranks -- being a newcomer to all this and still uncertain why it matters whether he is "from" Fleetwood or Blackpool -- I could listen to him sing all day. I'm just not yet ready to tape up photos on my wall. When I am, I hope you will help me explain it to my daughter...