b. 24 June 1952, Birmingham, West Midlands, England. A singer and actor, with a reputation as â€˜one of the best singing voices in townâ€™, Willetts seemed to emerge from nowhere in the 80s to take over leading roles in two blockbusting West End musicals. He had no singing, dancing or acting lessons, and before he was 20, rarely went to the theatre. However, while working during the day as a quality control supervisor for a Midlands firm of engineers, he became involved in local amateur dramatics. His sensitive performance as Charlie in the Charles Strouse musical Flowers For Algernon, came to the notice of Bob Hamlyn, artistic director of the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry. Hamlyn cast him in his first professional part, as â€˜the third flunky from the leftâ€™, in another Strouse show, Annie. By now in his thirties, Willetts began his incredible rise to the top. Director Trevor Nunn put him into the chorus of Les MisÃ©rables at Londonâ€™s Palace Theatre, and within a year he was understudy for the lead role of Jean Valjean, which he eventually took over in 1986 after Colm Wilkinson left to join the Broadway production. In the following year, when Michael Crawford also departed England for the US premiere of The Phantom Of Opera, Willetts succeeded him at Her Majestyâ€™s in the West Endâ€™s hottest ticket. He subsequently played the Phantom in Manchester, and won the Evening News Theatre Award. Since then, apart from his involvement as Major Lee in Petula Clarkâ€™s ill-fated American Civil War musical, Someone Like You (1990), Willettsâ€™ career has prospered. Highlights have included appearances at Londonâ€™s premier cabaret space, Pizza On The Park (1991), a return to the London production of Les MisÃ©rables (1992), and the title role of Jesus in a concert version of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Barbican Centre and the subsequent 1993 European tour; he also co-starred with Lorna Luft in the touring concert staging of The Magical World Of The Musicals (1995), and took the leading role in an acclaimed Leicester Haymarket production of Sweeney Todd (1996). In the same year, Willetts created the title role in a new musical by Tony Rees and Gary Young, Jekyll, at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley. Willetts originated leading characters in the UK premieres of Tycoon and Lonely Hearts, and has also starred in his own UK and international concerts and one-man shows. In 1997, he and Bonnie Langford headed a small cast at Londonâ€™s Jermyn Theatre, in A Lot Of Living!, an intimate revue featuring the songs of Charles Strouse. Subsequently, he portrayed Jean Valjean once again, in the 10th Anniversary production of Les MisÃ©rables in Sydney, Australia. Early in 1999, Willetts was co-starred with Marti Webb in a UK tour of The Magic Of The Musicals In Concert.Portions of Content Provided by Rovi Corporation.
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