Starring in Les Miserables was 'the highlight of my life'
In 1996, he was Gavroche when Les Misérables was staged here. Twenty years on, he watches the musical and sweet memories come flooding back
Last week, Mr Surendran Subramaniam and his family watched Les Misérables for the first time in 20 years.
It was especially nostalgic and significant for the 30-year-old, who played the coveted role of street urchin Gavroche in the iconic stage musical when it was staged in Singapore in 1996.
LITTLE STAR: Mr Surendran Subramaniam became the first Indian boy to play the role of Gavroche in 1996. PHOTOS: PHYLLICIA WANG, COURTESY OF RAMMIAH SUBRAMANIAM
The musical is back on our shores with an updated version at the Esplanade Theatre, with an Australian cast.
And Mr Surendran, who is married and has a seven-month-old daughter, was floored by the "excellent" cast, especially the "very spunky actor playing Gavroche".
He was most excited to relive the part when the boy dies, as he recalled seeing the audience weep when he portrayed him two decades ago and feeling empowered as he "had done justice to the character".
He told M: "It was intense when I saw Gavroche and all the old sentiments came flooding back. I even teared during the emotional scenes."
Mr Surendran, who will be back to watch the show "a few more times", was also amazed at how Les Misérables' stage props are now much more technologically advanced, as projectors and 3D effects were not used in the 1996 staging.
Mrs Mary Subramaniam had recognised her nine-year-old son's knack for acting, singing and dancing after watching him perform in his kindergarten school plays.
She urged him to audition for Les Misérables when it was staged here.
Despite suffering from tonsillitis, the St Michael's School pupil was one of four Singaporeans shortlisted for the roles of Gavroche andorphan girl Little Cosette.
The month-long rehearsals were held in Sydney and the show ran in Singapore for five weeks.
"It was the highlight of my life," Mr Surendran recalled with a grin.
After that stint, he was invited to audition for a supporting role in local musical Chang & Eng, which ran for about six years.
That was where he met the girl who would eventually become his wife. Sherry, now 27, a medical technologist, was then 11 and he was 14.
"We were not close then and used to argue a lot," Mr Surendran said with a laugh.
Three of Chang & Eng's runs were held in Thailand, Beijing and Kuala Lumpur, which meant that he juggled overseas shows while studying at St Patrick's School.
After Chang & Eng, his ever-supportive mother urged him to audition for A Midsummer Night's Dream - his third and final commercial theatrical gig.
He decided to pursue a diploma in nautical studies at Singapore Polytechnic, then went on to work as a seafarer and sailed as an officer. He is now a shipbroker and loves his job.
For practical reasons, he rejected a potential stage career and has never watched Les Misérables overseas.
"At that time, there were not many avenues in Singapore for theatre and (acting) was more of a hobby," said Mr Surendran.
He still enjoys performing at family functions and even serenaded his wife at their wedding, but he does not harbour any thoughts about going professional.
Though his proud, starry-eyed parents were disappointed that he did not continue with his youthful endeavours or pursue the bright lights of showbiz, they now have a new target: their granddaughter.
"We expect Les Misérables to come back in 10 years, so we are hoping to send her for the audition (for the role of Little Cosette)," said Mr Surendran's father, Mr Rammiah Subramaniam, 58.
His wife, also 58, quickly added: "She definitely has to go."
WHAT: Cameron Mackintosh’s les Misérables
WHERE: Esplanade theatre
WHEN: now till July24, various timings
TICKETS: $58 to $228 from sistic (6348 5555 or www. sistic.com.sg)