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'Rocky's in for a treat': Les Mis star Brad Villiers reveals all

Brad Villiers: Warming up his pipes for the big night.
Brad Villiers: Warming up his pipes for the big night. Allan Reinikka ROK261017avillier

BRAD Villiers will fulfil a life-long ambition tomorrow night when he plays one of musical theatre's great roles Jean Valjean.

The talented 38-year-old takes on the starring role in the Rockhampton Musical Union's production of Les Miserables.

Tomorrow's opening night promises to be a packed house at the Pilbeam Theatre.

For Villiers it marks a journey of more than 30 years.,

Little did he know when he joined the Rockhampton Musical Union at the age of five that his life would be swept up in a world of bright lights, curtain calls, and elaborate costumes.

The Rockhampton local very quickly "got the bug”, and turned his gaze towards the eclectic and outrageous world of musical theatre.

Not only was the young theatre buff a regular in eisteddfods and school productions, he was also dubbed a Queensland country representative in rugby union.

"Between that and football, it was a very busy household when I was growing up,” Villiers, 38, says of his colourful childhood.

"I used to go to choir rehearsal then off to football training.”

When he graduated high school, he "finally escaped” his hometown, and moved to Brisbane to study a Bachelor of Classical Vocal Studies at the Conservatorium of Music.

It was while studying that he met his wife, Rachel, who was studying speech pathology in the city.

However, it didn't take long before his country home beckoned and just six months before Villiers and his partner decided to make the move up north and settle down, he flew back home and performed the role of Enjolras in the 2003 production of Les Miserables.

Villiers knows the musical backwards, and it has been his favourite ever since it was released.

So, when the opportunity came up to play one of his favourite roles, Jean Valjean, he threw his hat in the ring and hoped for the best.

"Jean Valjean's story, it's certainly something,” he said.

His beloved character's journey is chronicled throughout the musical, and sees him transition from a man who has served 19 years of hard labour for stealing a loaf of bread, to a man given a second chance by the Bishop.

"The life he creates and leads and the way he handles himself; it's such a journey. And going from that broken convict into that dying 70-year-old man in the end. It's a hell of a journey and it's a wonderful thing to be on stage,” Villiers said.

"The music and the songs, it's very special to be up there.”

A former breakfast radio announcer for Sea FM, Villiers has spent the past few years behind the scenes instead of on the stage.

"It's an ensemble piece,” he said at his Rockhampton home.

"You might be out the front ... giving the last bow on the night, but it's the person at the back putting the props together, the person on the fly line, the ... orchestra. It's all coming together and you're all working towards the same goal.”

Les Miserables isn't his only big production. In 2005, he performed in the Rockhampton production of Jekyll and Hyde, playing both characters who inevitably must confront each other. A feat that Villiers thoroughly enjoyed.

As a teenager he committed to doing background work, having a few solo lines here and there before his talent for the big roles was discovered.

"We're all amateurs and we're all volunteers,” Villiers says of his fellow actors.

"We all have our day jobs but you put that behind you when you hit the stage, and then you're in 19th century Paris,” Villiers said.

All manner of characters are involved in a production like this.

There are young students, elderly gentlemen imparting their wisdom, and blokes "you go down to the pub and get a beer with”.

And every actor involved in this amazing cross section of people brings something unique to the cause.

"The wonderful thing that Joy's (director Joy Phillipi) done too: she hasn't over-directed the show,” Villiers said.

"If you've got input, you have that opportunity to put it in. You really absorb everything, take it all on board, and use what you need to.

"In the rehearsal process... give it a go. If it doesn't work well, try something else.”

To prepare himself for his big performance this weekend, he will be getting lots of sleep, doing lots of steam inhalation, "keeping the vocal cords nice and plump and hydrated”, and making sure not to raise his voice too much at his kids.

"The hardest thing is juggling your time and your mental focus, especially this week. Production week is usually a hellish week, but it hasn't been too bad - touch wood,” he said.

What's next for the Les Miserables star? One day, he hopes to cross another famous role off his bucket list - the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera.

But for now, he will take some time off, and will be coming back from 19th century Paris to reality to begin his new job as a community development officer the week after the curtains close.

"I'd like to thank my amazing wife for allowing me to do this and my family and their grandparents for helping out over the process,” he said.



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