In 2005, a young Daniel Koek moved from South Australia to London to build an international career in theatre.
Ten years later, with a successful run as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables on the West End under his belt, Koek has released his second studio album, High, and is returning home to Adelaide to perform his long-awaited solo show in the 2015 Adelaide Cabaret Festival.
Koek was originally billed to perform in the 2013 festival under the leadership of close friend Kate Cebrano, but was forced to cancel his show upon winning the role of Jean Valjean in London. “It wasn’t a difficult decision in that I knew I had to take the role of Valjean on the West End but it did pain me, because a lot of time and effort had gone into my show – I’d already started writing it and my flights had been booked, and I really didn’t want to disappoint anyone. That was my main concern,” he said.
But the Cabaret Festival team were incredibly supportive, said Koek, and welcomed him back with open arms upon his return this year. “They said ‘the Cabaret Festival’s not going anywhere, it’s growing, and we’ll absolutely invite you back’, and that’s what happened” he said.
2015 provided perfect timing to take another run at the festival, with his run in Les Miserables ending mid last year. While playing Valjean was a career-defining time, Koek says he was more than ready to leave the high-profile cast.
“Valjean is one of those roles that is iconic musical theatre, and it’s any leading man’s dream part. It’s also the most gruelling; for the year that I was in [Les Miserables] I pretty much had to wrap myself in cotton wool because it’s a massive acting journey and it’s also a massive part to sing seven times a week, and you really just had to live and breathe it. That’s why a year in that role was really more than enough. I loved every second of it, but it’s such a consuming part, it’s such an emotional journey, that at the end of each show you really are mentally and physically exhausted.”
[pull_left]Obviously I’m undeniably classically trained, but I was always more passionate about theatre and my own writing and that kind of thing.[/pull_left]
Koek’s new business relationship with QANTAS is also facilitating an easy journey home by sponsoring his travel back to Australia. “I’ve just become an official friend of QANTAS and an ambassador for the arts, so they’re a major sponsor of me getting down to the Cabaret Festival. The new album will also be frequented on all their in-flight entertainment”
While his 2015 show is similar to the performance he had planned for 2013, Koek promises new songs and new stories taken from his time spent abroad. “I’ve looked at the shows that I’ve performed kind of chronologically, and taken some songs out of there that people know and love, and some songs off my new album which [came out] on May 4”
Koek’s new release, High, is a departure from his previous album released in 2008, Self Titled Tenor. While this first album consisted of mostly musical theatre and drew from the work he was doing at the time as Tony in West Side Story, High draws influences from popular acts such as Il Divo and Josh Groban to create a more commercial sound, labelled by Koek as “classical crossover”. “Obviously I’m undeniably classically trained, but I was always more passionate about theatre and my own writing and that kind of thing, so it’s kind of an eclectic mix of all those genres, and I’m really excited about it.” he said.
Koek also looks forward to taking part in community projects such as a gala event at Faith Lutheran College in Tanunda, of which Koek is a proud alumnus. Living north of Adelaide, in Gawler, Koek says the school provided him with unique opportunities to learn about music and performance. “I was there from ’95 to ’99 and they have an amazing facility out there to really nurture and encourage budding young musicians.” “It’s a school that has an amazing music program. Two teachers in particular there really nurtured and supported my talent and really encouraged and pushed me all the way. It was absolutely a catalyst in getting me where I am today.”
Although Koek has some exciting career moments coming up, he says the true highlight of his Australia trip will be simply returning to old watering holes such as the Belgian Beer Café, lazy lunches in the Barossa, and much-earned time with friends.
Koek’s 2015 CabFest show, Bringing Him Home with his West End Story, runs from 13-14 June. Tickets are available from BASS