Theater Review - Kevin Harry brings heart to Aurora"s "Les Misarables"
Veteran actor goes from midnight audition to landing starring role
Not many actors could easily transition from playing the narrator in the Actor's Express production of Rocky Horror to Daddy Warbucks in Annie at the Atlanta Lyric Theatre, but Kevin Harry did so as he racked up an impressive theater resume in the past few years. In addition to his current role as Javert in the Aurora Theatre's production of Les Miserables, he also portrayed Coalhouse Walker in Ragtime (also at Atlanta Lyric) and Michael in Murder Ballad at Actor's Express. It doesn't hurt that he has a voice like an unfurled purr; his talent and good nature have made him one of the city's most in-demand musical theater actors.
The Aurora Theatre in had a huge hit in 2014 with its production of Les Miserables, and it has brought the show back again this year. Aurora's version will make you forget the unfortunate film starring Hugh Jackman. If Russell Crowe is your only vision of the character Javert, then you owe it to yourself to see Harry do the role justice. It's easy to find yourself torn between the virile dignity of Bryant Smith's Valjean and the taut passion of Harry's Javert. Harry notes that he feels more confident this year and that the cast as a whole is more committed to the storytelling aspect of the performances.
Harry grew up on Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where his dad was a high-ranking officer. His first significant intro to the theater came from a junior high teacher who brought in a recording of Sweeney Todd and played a little piece each day for her students. Harry says he became "obsessed with the idea of creating magic onstage," and after moving to Atlanta in 1996, he surprised everyone, including himself, by winning an audition to snag the role of Sweeney in a production at Georgia Perimeter College's Clarkston campus. He worked in voice-overs and even had a part in the film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but eventually the work dried up, and he took a day job as a recruiter.
Luckily for Atlanta theatergoers, the acting bug came back, and after an evening at "Showtime at the Apollo" helped him overcome a crippling battle with stage fright. "I didn't get booed," Harry says, adding that from that point he decided to pursue a path on which he would constantly be trying things that scared him. Even though he was often told his voice was "too pop," he persisted, and he attributes much of his success to being willing to help others.
People such as Jessica De Maria, Harry's co-star in Murder Ballad and Les Miserables, have taken note. "Kevin gives Javert a warmth I don't think people normally see, which makes his performance so rich and interesting," she says.
Fans seeing Harry so naturally comfortable in the role will be surprised to learn that he originally wanted to audition for the more comedic part of Thenardier. When that role had been filled, he ran out into the lobby, learned the Javert power ballad "Stars," and came back in to nail the audition. The feat is even more impressive when you learn that the audition took place after midnight because, as Harry notes, "half of the theater community showed up for that audition!" For the stage veteran it's all a part of the process. "You learn as you go, and follow your passion," Harry says.
He is willing to back up his words, and his presence is felt on stage and off. "That 'warmth' is an intrinsic part of his performances," De Maria says. "It's so much of who he is."