Dean Chisnall went from West End leading man to Tesco driver within days when the pandemic struck last year.
The experienced stage performer has racked up nearly 500 performances as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, not to mention high-profile roles like the Narrator in Blood Brothers and Sam in Mamma Mia.
His lifelong dream job was taken away by Covid, so now that he is about to return to the stage in Les Mis, he appreciates what he has more than ever.
“This job was my dream and I was lucky enough to do it in London and on tour before Covid happened, so it’s an even greater privilege now – the continuation of my dream,” he smiled.
“While I didn’t imagine the closure would go on for as long as it did, I’m a realist so, within two weeks of the pandemic happening, I was driving a Tesco van.
“Then I went to work at an outdoor cinema three or four months later, and then I became a teacher and I still love what I do at the school.
“I adapted and earned a living in different ways but it’s just so special to be back. This is a wonderful way to earn a living. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough and it has its challenges, but so does everything in life.”
Rehearsals have been ongoing for several weeks now and the much-delayed tour will finally open in Glasgow, where it will set down for six weeks, taking in the festive period.
“What a place to open. This will be my fourth or fifth time in the city and I’ve loved it every time,” he continued. “It’s the perfect place to open and I know the Glasgow crowd will be with us, as they’ve been waiting a long time. It’s great to be able to unpack the suitcase for a bit and enjoy the place and get to know it again.
“Some of the cast will spend the festivities there. Personally, I’ll go back to my parents in Lancashire for the day or back down south to my wife, but what an excuse to spend Hogmanay in Scotland, which I’ve always fancied doing.”
Chisnall says testing protocols are tight around the production and everyone is keeping safe.
He admits putting Les Mis back on the road in these times is a “huge undertaking”.
“It’s the world’s most successful and biggest musical, and it’s enormous for Cameron Mackintosh to get this up and running. I can’t tell you the logistics of trying to get a tour on the road, after postponing so many times. The word epic is bandied around a lot these days, but this really is an epic. It’s a monster of a production.
“We’re determined to stay open and we have to stay open. I think it’s a part of society that has been missed incredibly.
“We offer an escape – that’s our job. It’s an escape from the realities of life for the ticket holder and to not have that outlet has been tragic.
“From my side of it, it’s been equally tragic. It’s an outlet for the actors as well – we escape and get to tell someone else’s stories.”
Chisnall will break through the 500-shows marker as Jean Valjean, one of musical theatre’s most sought-after roles, while the production is in Glasgow.
“Never a day goes by when I don’t appreciate it,” he added. “It’s the iconic pinnacle of any male musical theatre person’s career and I still pinch myself every day.
“But it’s an ensemble show and if the company piece doesn’t work then he’s irrelevant.
“Les Miserables is relatable to everyone – there are so many things relevant in it to the present day.
“That’s why it’s 36 years old and counting, and it will continue to be counting for a long time to come.
“It will be emotional reopening it in Glasgow.”
Les Miserables, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, November 23-December 31
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