Colm Wilkinson

Colm Wilkinson

Wilkinson performing in 2007 in Ontario Canada
Background information
Also known as C. T. Wilkinson
Born (1944-06-05) 5 June 1944
Drimnagh, Ireland
Genres Rock opera, Broadway theatre songs, folk rock
Occupation(s) Musician, actor
Instruments Vocals , guitar
Years active 1972–present
Associated acts Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera

Colm Wilkinson (born 5 June 1944), also known as C. T. Wilkinson, is an Irish-Canadian tenor and actor, best known for originating the role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables (in the West End and Broadway) and for taking the title role in The Phantom of the Opera at the Sydmonton Festival and in the original Canadian production.

Due to his association with these musicals, he reprised the role of Jean Valjean during the Les Misérables 10th Anniversary Concert (at The Royal Albert Hall), as well as appearing as a special guest at the 25th Anniversary Celebrations of Les Misérables (at the O2 arena) and The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall.[1]

His versions of both "The Music of the Night" from Phantom and "Bring Him Home" from Les Misérables are acclaimed throughout the world; fans "insist he perform all his concerts."[2]

Early life

Born in Drimnagh, in 1944, in the downstairs room of his parents' house, Colm was one of ten children. He recalls a home that resonated with singing, poetry, and musical instruments. Both of his parents were skilled musicians. His mother, a native of Crossmolina in County Mayo, was a singer and was involved in amateur dramatics, while the banjo and mandolin formed part of his father's extensive repertoire. Colm worked with his father, who was an asphalt contractor, and was playing in bands part-time. At just 16 years of age, he went to the US on a tour, and soon after quit the family business to become a full-time professional musician.[3]

Life and career

After playing in several Irish bands which included The Action, (not to be confused with an English band of the same name), in 1972 Wilkinson was cast as Judas Iscariot in the Dublin production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar; a role he went on to reprise in London and on the British national tour.[4]

In 1976, Wilkinson sang the part of Che on the album for the musical Evita.[5] Instead of auditioning for the role when the production was launched in London, Wilkinson launched a solo career as a singer-songwriter.

Wilkinson also featured as Dr. Jekyll in the original Jekyll and Hyde concept album.

By 1977, Wilkinson released his own eponymous album, in his childhood home in Ireland, where he was known as "C.T. Wilkinson". The album charted in the Irish Charts for eight weeks at Number 1.[6]

After his successful solo LP, Wilkinson began to prepare actively for vocal competitions. This led to his eventual representation of Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1978 with "Born to Sing", earning fifth place in the European competition for his efforts.[7]

Colm starred in Voices, a musical based on the life and times of Joan of Arc, which went on stage at the Olympia Dublin in 1984. The show's music and lyrics were written by Derry-based composer, Tommy "TC" Doherty, with the single 'Child of Destiny' being released at the time and now available on iTunes.

In 1985, he collaborated with Andrew Lloyd Webber once again, originating the role of the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera at the Sydmonton workshop.[8] Wilkinson was offered the role for the show's debut on the West End, but instead chose to play Jean Valjean in Les Misérables.

The London production of Les Misérables opened in October 1985, and transferred to Broadway in March 1987. Originally, the American Actors' Equity Association refused to allow Wilkinson to play the part of Valjean in New York, due to its policy of hiring only American actors unless an actor outside America was an international star. At this, producer Cameron Mackintosh refused to open the show unless Wilkinson played Valjean, and Actors' Equity relented. Wilkinson took the lead role despite the temporary setback.[9] He won the Helen Hayes Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the Theatre World Award for his performance; he was nominated for the Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for Best Actor in a Musical.[10][11]

In 1989, Wilkinson relocated his family to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, when he was offered the title role in the original Toronto production of The Phantom of the Opera playing at the Pantages Theatre (now Ed Mirvish Theatre).[7][12] He has lived in Toronto ever since, and became a Canadian citizen in the early 2000s.[13]

A couple of years later, Wilkinson played Valjean once again, this time in Toronto at the Princess of Wales Theatre.

In 1995, Wilkinson played Jean Valjean in the 10th Anniversary Concert of Les Misérables at the Royal Albert Hall.[14]

In October–November 2007, Wilkinson undertook a cross-Canada concert tour, Broadway and Beyond, along with Susan Gilmour and Gretha Boston.[15]

Wilkinson plays the part of Lord Darcy in the third season showing of Showtime's miniseries The Tudors which began airing on 12 April 2009.[16]

He participated in U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy's birthday celebration at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on 8 March 2009. The highlight of the evening was when President Barack Obama arrived on the stage and together with all the performers sang "Happy Birthday" to Ted Kennedy.[17] Wilkinson also was asked to perform at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library at the Memorial Service for Senator Kennedy on 28 August 2009, the evening before the Senator's funeral.

On 24 May 2009 Wilkinson performed in the National Memorial Day Concert at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., in front of a large audience and screened live across America on PBS.[18]

A solo album was released in January 2010 titled "Broadway and Beyond: The Concert Songs". It covers all of the songs that Wilkinson performed on his cross-Canada tour in 2007. His previous album was released in 2002, titled "Some of My Best Friends Are Songs". In it, he and his son Aaron cover the Cat Stevens song, "Father and Son", as a duet. The album is an eclectic mix of show tunes, Wilkinson's personal favorites, and several songs from his stage productions. His support of PBS and listener-supported television in North America, following his participation in the tenth anniversary of the production of Les Misérables, brought him an hour-long program on which he performed songs including some selections from the album and also including a powerful and emotive rendition of "Gethsemane", from Jesus Christ Superstar, a song that he sheepishly admitted having hoped to perform for 23 years.[8] His supporting television broadcast, Stage Heroes: Colm Wilkinson, aired on the heels of Les Misérables, brought positive reviews from fans and critics, with readers adding his name to their lists of "the five greatest singers ever", in Rolling Stone Magazine.

On 3 October 2010, Wilkinson was a special guest at the 25th Anniversary Concerts of Les Misérables, at the O2 Arena, alongside many other original cast members.[19] He performed as part of a 'Valjean Quartet'; alongside Alfie Boe, John Owen-Jones and Simon Bowman (each of whom had previously played the role of Jean Valjean in various productions of Les Misérables). This was recorded as a single (released in the U.K.) and performed live at the London Palladium; during the Royal Variety Performance on 16 December 2010.

A year later, on 1 and 2 October 2011, he appeared – alongside a number of former Phantoms – at the 25th Anniversary Celebration of The Phantom of the Opera, at The Royal Albert Hall.[20]

He is a Founding Artist of Theatre 20, a musical theatre company in Toronto formed by artists in 2009, and performed in Theatre 20's 2011 Concert Series at the Panasonic Theatre.[21][22] Other Founding Artists include Susan Gilmour, Louise Pitre, Ma-Anne Dionisio, Tamara Bernier Evans and Adam Brazier.

He performed his concert at the Toronto Centre for the Arts in August 2011 for two nights for Dancap Productions.

Wilkinson appeared as the Bishop of Digne in the 2012 film production of Les Misérables. Hugh Jackman played Jean Valjean in the film.[23]

Colm is currently on tour, performing songs from his album Broadway and Beyond, the Concert Songs.

Personal life

In 1970, Colm married Deirdre, whom he describes as a source of constant and essential support over the past four decades. They started their life as a married couple in Bray in 1970, and went on to have four children – Aaron, Judith, Sarah, and Simon. They have a home in Wicklow, yet now live mainly in Canada. The family moved to Toronto in 1989 when Colm began a four-and-a-half-year run at the Pantages Theatre as the title character of The Phantom of the Opera, originating the role in Canada. Of their children, Judith is now a curator, Simon and Sarah are graphic designers and Aaron is a singer/songwriter.[24][25] Early in his music career, Wilkinson insisted that his wife and children accompany him on tour to avoid familial separation.[26]

Wilkinson was voted one of the five greatest singers ever in a Rolling Stone Magazine readers' poll and is noted for maintaining a powerful singing voice into his late 60s. He has attributed his longevity to avoiding coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, and dairy products, as well as ensuring proper sleep, diet, and exercise. He is also noted as being rather soft-spoken in order to refrain from overworking his voice.[26]

In October 2012 he was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws from Ryerson University in Toronto.[27][28]


Year Title Role Notes
1985 Lyrics by Tim Rice Che Segment "High Flying, Adored"
1995 Les Misérables: The Dream Cast in Concert Jean Valjean
2009–2010 The Tudors Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy de Darcy 3 episodes
2010 Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary Concert Jean Valjean Finale – Special Guest
2011 The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall The Phantom Finale – Special Guest
2012 Les Misérables Bishop of Digne National Board of Review Award for Best Cast
Satellite Award for Best Cast – Motion Picture
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Ensemble
Nominated—Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Acting Ensemble
Nominated—Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
Nominated—San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Performance by an Ensemble
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture


  1. Review, accessed 3 April 2009
  2. Archived 31 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. "Wicklow Resident being Born to Sing". Bray People. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  4. Wilkinson, Colm Official Website
  5. Listing, accessed 3 April 2009
  6. Maple Music Artist Biography (2000–2009). "Colm Wilkinson". MapleMusic Ltd. Retrieved 11 April 2009.
  7. 1 2 LeBlanc, Larry."Wilkinson Returns To Pop/soul Roots",, 21 December 2002
  8. 1 2 Interview, 16 December 2004
  9. "Garth Drabinsky's fatal flaw". Maclean's. Rogers Media. 9 April 2009. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  10. Colm Wilkinson Online
  11. News release, ca. 1999
  12. Colm Wilkinson – Biography
  14. Les Misérables: The Dream Cast in Concert
  15. Gans, Andrew."Wilkinson's Broadway & Beyond Concert Tour to Begin in October",, 18 June 2007
  16. BWW News Desk.Colm Wilkinson Stars on 'THE TUDORS' 4/12, 11 April 2009
  17. "Inside Ted Kennedy's Birthday Gala". CBS News. 9 March 2009.
  18. National Symphony Orchestra: National Memorial Day Concert, accessed 31 July 2010
  20. Jones, Kenneth (12 April 2011). "Colm Wilkinson, Louise Pitre and New Musical Amelia Will Be Heard in Toronto Concert Series". Playbill. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  22. Bamigboye, Baz (27 January 2012). "Stars of original Les Miserables get an encore as they join the cast of new big screen remake". Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  23. Article, accessed 3 April 2009
  24. "Hysterical Fans Fixate on Dublin Singing Star". Irish Post. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  25. 1 2 "Colm Wilkinson". Bray People news. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
The Swarbriggs Plus Two
with "It's Nice to Be in Love Again"
Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest
Succeeded by
Cathal Dunne
with "Happy Man"
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