In college, Andrew Varela trained in opera while at Rutgers University in New York. But even though he says he loves the performing art form, he took another path.
"One of the realities of opera is that whenever you're in college and you're singing, everyone says, 'Wow, you're going to be great when you're 35.' For a younger person it makes you think, 'So why the hell am I doing this now?' I do love opera and I do love the work, but it didn't call to me enough to put in the time."
Instead, Varela went into musical theater and very successfully, building on community theater to regional and eventually appearing on Broadway in Les Misérables, Sunday in the Park With George and Little Women.
He's coming to Houston in the national touring production of Les Misérables courtesy of Gexa Energy Broadway, and the only change from Broadway is that this time he's singing the role of Inspector Javert, who hunts Jean Valjean, instead of the huntee Valjean, jailed for 19 years for stealing food.
Varela says when he went to an audition for the national tour more than two years ago, he was up for the Valjean part, but the director looked at him and said he would like him to sing one of Javert's songs. He did, it was a match and he's been touring ever since in this 25th anniversary production of Les Misérables.
And he's a big booster of the show, which he says has sold out everywhere they've gone. This is the perfect show for people who never go to theater, with its compelling story. And even if you are one of the 60 million people who have seen this musical since its start, this one is different, he promises.
"From the very beginning, you know that the show is different because they've re-orchestrated it, they've relit this show. We have state-of-the-art high-definition projectors that take the back wall of the stage and turn it into another actor. For a show that's as epic as this one, the projectors allow you a cinematic quality that's never been done before. "
Varela says one thing he's enjoyed about his career is the chance it gives him to take on different roles, different characters.
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"I like to do what I do because it's a great life. What I discovered as I delved deeper into acting is that the chance to delve into someone else's life and reasons for doing things, it's a powerful feeling."
"I like to dive into characters that have been around for a long time. And reinvent them."
And even if you're thinking of just waiting till the Christmas Day unveiling of the Hugh Jackman movie version of Les Miz, think again. After all, the live version of "I Dreamed a Dream," "Master of the House" and "One More Day" won't be auto-tuned.
Les Misérables runs November 6-11 at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, go to the theater's website or call 713-315-2525. $50-$150.