Rod Illidge thinks his Les Misérables character Javert gets a raw deal.
The police inspector who is on an obsessive hunt for convict Jean Valjean (played by Tim Gibbs in the Taree Arts Council production) to punish him for his crime, is considered one of the show’s evil characters.
But Rod said Javert is actually not evil.
“People who come to the show look at Jean Valjean as the hero who is doing the right thing. But if you study the show, Javert is right.”
Jean Valjean had been imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread and absconds on parole. Rod said Javert is trying to punish him for his crime.
“Javert sings ‘you say I’m a changed man’ but if someone robbed your house and they went to court and said they were a changed man you’d still want the judge to put him in jail.”
People who come to the show look at Jean Valjean as the hero who is doing the right thing. But if you study the show, Javert is right.Rod Illidge
Rod describes Javert as righteous and absolutely law abiding. “Right is right, the law is right. He believes people who break the law should suffer the consequences at the hands of the system and God. He is absolutely black and white and has no empathy.”
And while he said he’s having fun with the character, the role has been challenging vocally.
“I’ve found the singing extremely challenging. While it’s not an opera, the style of singing is operatic. It’s a lot harder and I’ve had to extend my range to get to do it.
“I wasn’t sure I would be able to play the role but it just goes to show what lots of practice does. I’ve extended my range and I’m the most vocally fit I’ve ever been in my whole life.”
Rod got his start in musical theatre in high school but stopped when it became the “uncool thing to do”.
Years later, in 1995, sitting in the audience of Taree Arts Council’s Les Misérables with his wife Jill and friend Deirdre Stack he said “I’d love to do that.”
When auditions came around the following year for Jesus Christ Superstar they pushed him to audition and he was cast as Caiaphas.
“I got severely bitten by the bug. It’s so much fun. My mother was a singer and there was always music in the house. It felt right to be in musicals and you make that family of the people in the show.”
After getting the part though he decided he “better learn to sing” and has been having lessons with Ariana Shneider on and off for 20 years. Being cast as Javert got him back to her after a break.
I’ve extended my range and I’m the most vocally fit I’ve ever been in my whole life.Rod Illidge
“Thinking about being on stage and the fear of failure makes you driven to work hard and practice hard and give 100 per cent commitment. I would hate to not do the best I could.”
Rod has appeared in numerous Taree Arts Council productions including Jesus Christ Superstar, Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahoma, Cosi, A Little Night Music, Be My Guest and Anything Goes. He was also in the world premiere of Ariana’s musical Crystal Dreaming.
He has worked with musical director Don Secomb and director Gayle Cameron before on quite a few shows. “They're professional people and I know anything they do they will demand a high standard.”
Les Misérables will be staged at the Manning Entertainment Centre from November 2 to 18. Tickets are available from www.themec.com.au, phone 6592 5466, or at the Customer Service Desk at Stockland Forster.