Canadian actor and singer Ramin Karimloo (b. Iran, 19 September 1978) is known chiefly for his extensive work in musicals in London’s West End. He has played multiple leading roles in both of the longest-running musicals there: Raoul and the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, and Enjolras, Marius, and Jean Valjean in Les Misérables. He also created the role of the Phantom in Love Never Dies, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to the story of The Phantom. Human Heart, released in the U.S. June 5, 2012, is his first solo album.
Born in Iran during the worst of the Islamic Revolution, Ramin Karimloo was only two months old when his parents were forced to flee the country to a small town in Italy. Two years later the family crossed the Atlantic to take up residence in Ontario, Canada, first in Peterborough and then Richmond Hill. When he was twelve years old he reluctantly joined a school trip to see The Phantom of the Opera: “I actually didn’t want to go, because I hated the idea of opera.” But when the show was over, “all I ever really wanted to do was be on stage.” He formed his own garage rock band, covering material from his favorite pop group, The Tragically Hip. After graduating from the Alexander Mackenzie High School, he worked in a factory and as a waiter, taking part in theatre projects and rock performances whenever he could.
One day he saw a notice for an audition: a touring company was looking for singers and dancers to perform for P&O Cruises on a cruise ship. Not expecting much, he took the audition and passed – they even hired him as a dancer although he had never danced in his life. Two weeks into the cruise, the lead singer dropped out and Ramin was asked to take his place. The cruise took him ultimately to London, where he decided to stay and look for more work.
His first job in England was in Chatham, playing Aladdin in a pantomime. Then in 2001 he joined the national tour of the UK in The Pirates of Penzance, first understudying the Pirate King, later taking the role regularly. He was in the national tour of Sunset Boulevard in 2002, and later that year made his West End debut as Feuilly in Les Misérables, understudying the roles of Enjolras and Marius.
In 2003 Karimloo took one of the lead roles, Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, in The Phantom of the Opera. While playing Raoul, he also appeared as Marius in two concert productions of Les Misérables and as Simon Zealotes in a concert of Jesus Christ Superstar. He returned to Les Misérables in 2004 in the role of Enjolras, which he performed at Windsor Castle in honor of French president Jacques Chirac. Parts of this concert were shown in a television documentary about Windsor Castle on Easter Sunday 2005. He was also heard as Marius in 2004 at Powderham Castle, and toured in Miss Saigon as Christopher Scott in 2005.
In September 2007 he was back in Phantom in the West End, this time as the star of the show at its 21st London anniversary. This performance brought him a nomination for the Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Best Actor in a Take Over Role. Then in July 2008 at the Sydmonton Festival, Karimloo was the first actor to play the Phantom in the workshop presentation of Love Never Dies. Karimloo’s last regular performance in Phantom occurred in November 2009, and the sequel opened in London four months later, running until August 2011; whether Love Never Dies is to come to Broadway is a matter of conjecture so far.
For his portrayal of the Phantom in Love Never Dies, Ramin Karimloo won the Whatsonstage.com Award for Best Actor in a Musical and the Best Actor award from Broadwayworld.com, and was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical.
From the end of November 2011 through March 2012, Ramin Karimloo returned to Les Misérables to play Jean Valjean at The Queen’s Theatre. He is now composing music for his band, the Sheytoons, which includes Les Misérables co-star Hadley Fraser. Karimloo, Fraser (as Marius), and Sophia Ragavelas (as Éponine) have recorded an Extended Play single, Within the Six Square Inch, of material from Les Misérables.
Although Human Heart is Ramin’s first solo studio album, he has recorded single songs in collections: “I Only Wish for You” on Songs from the Musicals of Alexander S. Bermange, an album of 20 tracks by 26 West End stars, released in November 2008; and songs by Gareth Peter Dicks from a new musical Bluebird (released September 2009). Human Heart was released in the UK in April 2012 under the simple title of Ramin. He is already talking about a follow-up album: “I love country music, and I want to go to Nashville and collaborate with all the greats.”
Ramin Karimloo is contracted to lead the cast of his first feature film Bad Town, scheduled to shoot in Quebec in 2012. But first he will embark on a major promotional tour around the UK (Glasgow, London, Oxford, Southend, Manchester, Nottingham, Birmingham, Gateshead, Cardiff), the U.S. (New York, Charlotte, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, Bethlehem, Chicago, Pittsburgh), and Canada (Toronto).
– Lucy E. Cross