This preview has been provided by the Greensboro Symphony.

David L. Nelson

“Les Miserables” is one of Broadway’s best known musicals, and its main character Jean Valjean is one of theater’s most iconic roles. For seven years and almost 3,000 performances, Valjean was played in New York by J. Mark McVey, who will sing with the Greensboro Symphony at Westover Church next week. As it turns out, Mark got his start singing in a church.

A Singing Family

In a recent interview McVey told of his childhood. “I grew up in Huntington, West Virginia, and went to church where I was often singing. At age four, I was a boy soprano and soloist with the children’s choir. My parents and older sister were all singers.  We Methodists sang a lot!”

Music was always part of the McVey house. Mark continues, “I had music surrounding me when I was growing up.” And Broadway became more and more important to the young singer. “My parents were always playing Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and Richard Rogers. We listened to all those classic composers from that era, and you could only hear that in the New York stage. I realized that’s what I wanted to do with my life.”

A Marketing Major goes to Broadway

In college, Mark pursued a marketing degree at Marshall University, but upon graduation he realized that if he did not give music a chance he would regret it for the rest of his life. “So I put my marketing degree to use and started marketing myself. I let everyone know who I was, and it was not very long until I started getting hired for roles. That’s when I decided to move to New York.” Mark quickly made a name for himself on Broadway and appeared in The Who’s rock-opera “Tommy” and in “The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public.”

A couple of years later, McVey took over the lead in “Les Miserables”, one of Broadway’s most famous roles. For seven years, he starred as Jean Valjean in this New York blockbuster and gave 2,912 performances. For his stellar work in this role, he won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Actor. Mark was also the first American to play Valjean in London’s West End.

Playing Jean Valjean

Playing such a dynamic character for so long certainly had an impact on Mark. “The Jean Valjean character really helped to guide my life. I did it for a long time. In playing that character, I got to be frustrated, angry, and lashing out in one portion of the play, and later in the show he was the savior. So it really taught me a lot about life.”

After “Les Miserables,” Mark’s career continued to flourish. He has performed in “Show Boat,” “Hey Love,” “A Helluva Town,” “The Show Goes On,” “Carousel,” “My Fair Lady,” “South Pacific,” and “Seven Brides.” Beyond the stage, he has sung at Carnegie Hall with Skitch Henderson and the NY Pops, and has frequently performed with composer/entertainer Marvin Hamlisch.

Performing on PBS and with the Boston Pops

On television, Mark has appeared with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops. He has also been on several PBS specials, including the Christmas Special from the Kennedy Center for the U.S. Military Troops and the PBS production of Charles Dickens’s “A Tale Of Two Cities.”  And in 2006, he received a first gold record for his participation on the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s album, The Lost Christmas Eve.

In Greensboro, Mark will share the stage with his wife who is also an accomplished singer and actor. Christy Tarr-McVey has been in the 20th Anniversary Tour of “Annie” and “Jeckyll and Hyde,” and has made commercials for Kraft, Magnavision, and Comcast.  Mark and Christy are the parents of two young daughters.

The concert will feature the music of Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin, and this will be the first pops concert conducted by Dima Sitkovetsky. The violin virtuoso meets Jean Valjean. It will be a memorable evening.