Former Broadway actor Greg Stone of Camano Island takes the stage tonight as Jean Valjean in Village Theatre’s production of the musical “Les Miserables,” running through Feb. 9 at the Everett Performing Arts Center.
His professional acting career is a lifetime removed from his childhood in Lynnwood, where Stone dreamed of becoming a professional athlete.
In the late 1970s, Edmonds Community College’s Frank DeMiero visited Stone’s elementary school to audition a group of boys for the college production of Menotti’s opera “Amahl and the Night Visitors.”
Stone got the part of Amahl.
“My family wasn’t musical,” Stone, now 45, said. “So, Amahl gave me a glimpse into a whole new world. I am so thankful to Frank for that.”
DeMiero said he remembers well working with Stone.
“He was a wonderful boy soprano, a natural,” said DeMiero, who directs the Sno-King Chorale. “We’ve stayed in touch over the years.
“During my decades teaching in south Snohomish County, I met so many talented kids. But Greg was one of those who had the talent and he worked hard. It’s obvious why he’s been successful.”
At Lynnwood High School, Stone decided to try theater again and was cast as the Scarecrow in the school’s 1985 production of “The Wizard of Oz.”
“I still liked sports, but I fell in with the acting crowd,” Stone said. “I still didn’t know that my dream had changed to musical theater.”
After graduating from Lynnwood in 1986, Stone attended Shoreline Community College, where he appeared in plays, sang in the choir and studied voice with Susan Dolacky, who ran the musical theater program at Shoreline.
While finishing his English degree at the University of Washington, Stone found parts in Seattle-area productions, such as those at the 5th Avenue Theatre, and in Gilbert and Sullivan operas.
“My big break locally came in 1993,” Stone said. “I was only 25 and got cast as Jesus in Village Theatre’s ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.’”
The experience was profound, Stone said.
“It was the first time I felt I could be a leading man in a major production.”
A year later, while playing poker one night with other members of the 5th Avenue ensemble, Stone was asked by one of the actors with Broadway experience about his future.
“Kid, you’re good-looking. You can sing. When are you going to New York?”
Stone decided to give Broadway a try.
“I crashed on a friend’s couch,” he said. “And I did get some work, which was encouraging.”
Back home for a visit, Stone found out about auditions for the North American touring production of “Les Miserables.” He didn’t arrive in time for the men’s audition, so he crashed the women’s ensemble casting call.
At the audition, he was asked to sing eight bars and told to come back the next day, only to sing just 16 measures of music.
The casting director yelled at him to stop and asked Stone, then 27, if he had ever seen the musical.
“I hadn’t. So he gave me two tickets to the Broadway show that night. I came back and sang Valjean’s ‘Who am I?’ Again, he shouted for me to stop. But this time, he said I had the job.”
So, off Stone went, first as an understudy in the touring production and later as the youngest actor ever to fill the shoes of Valjean. He also played the role on Broadway midway through the 2 1/2 years he was on tour. He met his future wife, Chelsea, during the tour’s run in Dallas and returned with the tour to Seattle, where the jubilant audience was filled with family and friends.
Stone and his wife moved to New Jersey so he could continue his work on Broadway, where he had roles in shows including “Miss Saigon,” “Oklahoma!” “Urban Cowboy” and “The Pirate Queen,” as well as in productions off-Broadway and in professional regional theater.
“But at some point, I really missed the Northwest,” Stone said. “We visited a friend on Camano Island. It was a glorious sunny day. I was tired of New Jersey. We bought a house on the island.”
Though he would return to Broadway for the right role, Stone said he has found plenty of work in the vibrant theater community of the Northwest.
“It took me way too long to come home,” Stone said. “It’s about quality of life. Now, I go down to the beach, get in my little boat and go crabbing. I watch the birds. It’s magical here.”
Stone said he is eager to bring “Les Mis” to Everett.
“The story of redemption is epic and it resonates with most people,” he said. “Everett audiences appreciate Village Theatre productions, and I am as proud of this one as any I’ve ever done.”
As far as his childhood dream of becoming a pro athlete, Stone shrugs. His resume still lists his abilities in various sports.
“The thing is,” he said, “you have to be athletic to perform Valjean eight times a week.”