Childhood & Early Life
Colm Wilkinson was born on June 5, 1944, in Drimnagh, Ireland. His mother, a singer, took part in amateur dramatics, while his father was a versatile musician who could play instruments like the banjo and mandolin. Both he and Colm were asphalt contractors, and they worked together. His sister, Rebecca, is an actress.
As a young man, Colm performed with various bands in his free time. After going on a US tour, he decided to become a full-time musician.
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Colm Wilkinson performed with bands like The Action in the early phase of his career. In 1972, he played Judas Iscariot in the Dublin production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. Later, he portrayed the same character in a London production and on the British national tour.
In 1976, he performed as Che on the album for the musical ‘Evita’. However, he did not give an audition for the role when the play was introduced in London, deciding to start his solo career as a singer-songwriter. He was also part of the original ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ concept album.
In 1977, Wilkinson put out his debut self-titled album in Ireland, where people referred to him as C. T. Wilkinson. The album held the top spot on the Irish music charts for eight weeks. In the following year, he was the Irish contestant in the Eurovision Song Contest and finished it at the fifth place.
He was part of the cast of the musical ‘Voices’. It revolved around the life and times of Joan of Arc and was performed at the Olympia Dublin in 1984.
Wilkinson worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber in Sydmonton workshop’s production of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’. He essayed the role of The Phantom and was later asked to reprise the role in a West End production. However, he declined, accepting the role of Jean Valjean in ‘Les Misérables’ instead.
Besides the self-titled album, Wilkinson has released three more solo albums, ‘Stage Heroes’ (1989), ‘Some of My Best Friends Are Songs’ (2002), and ‘Broadway and Beyond: The Concert Songs’ (2010). The last album is comprised of all the songs he sang on his cross-Canada tour in 2007.
In 1975, Wilkinson made his first on-screen appearance in the television movie ‘Demolition Man’, portraying the role of a drunk. Five years later, he starred in another telefilm ‘The Rock Nativity’. He played Lord Darcey in three episodes of the BBC Two and Showtime series ‘The Tudors’ between 2009 and 2010.
In 2009, he co-founded Theatre 20, a musical theatre company based in Toronto, along with the likes of Susan Gilmour, Louise Pitre, Ma-Anne Dionisio, Tamara Bernier Evans, and Adam Brazier. In 2011, he appeared in Theatre 20's Concert Series at the Panasonic Theatre.
On 1 and 2 October 2011, Wilkinson and several other former Phantoms participated in the 25th Anniversary Celebration of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ at The Royal Albert Hall.
Wilkinson shared the screen space with Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway in the 2012 big-screen adaptation of ‘Les Misérables’. He played the Bishop of Digne, whose kindness inspires Jean Valjean to mend his ways.
According to a Rolling Stone Magazine’s readers’ poll, Wilkinson is one of the five greatest singers of all time. He cites proper sleep, diet, exercise, and avoiding things like coffee, smoking, alcohol, and dairy products as the reasons for his longevity.
In October 1985, Colm Wilkinson originated the role of Jean Valjean in the London production of ‘Les Misérables’. In March 1987, the play debuted on Broadway. He essayed the role again during the Les Misérables 10th Anniversary Concert at The Royal Albert Hall.
The actor made an appearance as a special guest at the 25th Anniversary Celebrations of Les Misérables at the O2 Arena. For the musical, he was nominated for a Tony Award and won the Helen Hayes Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, and Theatre World Award.