It’s been a little while since I’ve seen a show in the West End – my last theatre trip was to see the UK tour production of Cats. I’m here today though with a few family members to revisit an old classic: Les Miserables. We’ve picked a good time to see Cameron Mackintosh’s pride and joy, as the show is benefiting from a rather talented line-up which includes the likes of Peter Lockyer, David Thaxton, Wendy Ferguson and Carrie Hope Fletcher in the principal cast. In the ranks of the ensemble though are many more talented performers, a number of which have previously appeared in the pages of In Profile (Dougie Carter, Sarah Lark, Claire Parrish, Joanna Loxton, and Adam Pearce). Michael Riseley is one of the most recent additions to the long-running West End musical, and this week, he joins these fellow Les Miserables cast mates as he becomes the latest ensemble member to feature in In Profile.
Michael Riseley has been working professionally in the industry for four years now and has made great progress in his career in that time. His journey began far away from London’s West End, having been born and raised in Swansea, South Wales. It was where his early dreams of performing on the stage began, which led him to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) where he spent three years turning that dream into a reality. He played roles in various productions while training, including Master of Ceremonies in Cendrillon, Charles in After The Dance, Luis in West Side Story, Sem in Noye’s Fludde and Patacha in L’Etolie, and appeared as a featured soloist in Lost Musicals, for which he was also assistant director. He also took part in the Welsh National Youth Opera’s production of Sweeney Todd at the Wales Millennium Centre during that time, playing Adolfo Pirelli.
He graduated from RWCMD in 2010 with a Bmus (Hons) in Vocal and Opera Studies, but left with an additional honour, having competed in and won the eighth annual Welsh Young Musical Theatre Singer of the Year in February (2010). His renditions of ‘Anthem’ (Chess), ‘Shouldn’t I Be Less In Love With You?’ (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change), ‘What Is It About Her?’ (The Wild Party) and ‘Mama Says’ (Footloose) secured him the winner’s crown in the final at the Swansea Grand Theatre, joining former winners of the award such as Connie Fisher and David Thaxton, the latter of which is currently appearing alongside Riseley in Les Miserables.
After completing his training, he entered the professional world of theatre. His first gig came as a featured soloist in Europe’s largest Christmas show, the Thursford Christmas Spectacular, where he performed in front of royalty with the appearance of HRH Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Following that, he staged his début solo concert, An Evening With Michael Riseley, at the Swansea Grand Theatre.
His first role in a professional musical production post-graduation was as Jamie Wellerstein in The Last Five Years (Swansea Grand Theatre). He was then given the opportunity to join the Cunard ocean liner, Queen Victoria, as the principal vocalist, and spent the majority of 2011/2012 travelling on board the ship. He returned to London in 2012 to perform at the Finborough Theatre, giving a critically acclaimed performance as Sir Walter Raleigh in Merrie England.
He next appeared in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado at the Tabard Theatre, which ran between 20th February and 17th March 2013. He played Nanki-Poo opposite Emily Davies as his on-stage lover, Yum Yum, once again receiving praise for his performance. In that same year, he also toured internationally with the classical crossover quartet, Viva Voce.
In addition to his theatre credits, Riseley has performed in numerous concerts and cabarets in the course of his career. He starred alongside Hollie Cassar in the cabaret, A Taste of Musical Theatre, at the St James Cavalier, Malta in August, 2012 for instance, and was a featured soloist in An Evening of Movies and Musicals at the Apollo Victoria in 2013. He was also involved in Words Shared With Friends in 2014, the follow-up concert to librettist/lyricist Robert Gould’s album launch earlier in the year. He sang with Charlotte Bradford at that event, performing the Christopher J. Orton/Robert Gould duet, ‘ I Cannot Lose You’, as well as delivering a solo effort with another Orton/Gould collaboration, ‘You’re Everything I Never Knew I Always Wanted’.
He has also teamed up with fellow RWCMD graduate Peter James Horton to form a vocal duo who have performed together many times. Horton is a former member of the Classic BRIT Award-winning choir, Only Men Aloud, and has been on stage in many theatrical productions both in and out of London. The two friends staged their début cabaret in London before returning home to perform in concert at the Swansea Grand Theatre. A Grand Night For Singing featured a mix of popular songs, swing classics, traditional Welsh melodies and musical theatre favourites and took place on 9th May 2014.
Other theatre credits include roles in workshops, including Tsar Nicholas II in Rasputin: Ripples to Revolution, and William Crawshay in My Land’s Shore, recording with the ensemble for the studio cast album of the latter. He can also be heard as a male soloist on the original soundtrack of Evil Urges.
He made his West End début in the most recent cast change of Les Miserables, playing his first performance at the Queen’s Theatre on 16th June 2014. He holds the ensemble role of Montparnasse in the show. As a member of the current West End company, he appeared with his fellow Les Mis-ers at this year’s West End Live event and will feature on the upcoming West End Christmas album. Titled The West End Goes MAD For Christmas, the album is due to be released by Auburn Jam Records on 30th November 2014 in coincidence with The Make A Difference Trust’s annual concert, A West End Christmas. The compilation of Christmas songs by new writers will be performed by a line-up of West End stars, and Riseley will be performing with Killian Donnelly and the rest of the Les Miserable cast on Felix Hagan’s ‘Together We Can Make It’.
Michael Riseley is a promising performer who is currently appearing in what is sure to be just the first of many West End shows. This up-and-coming talent is still in the dawning days of what is sure to be a long and very successful career, and perhaps he’ll one day be seen in a leading role instead of a supporting one.
You can follow Michael on Twitter: @michael_riseley
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Saturday 25th October 2014