Based on the classic novel by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables is a story of Love and Loss set against the backdrop of the French Revolution. Hailed as one of the greatest pieces of theatre of the last 50 years, it is perhaps it’s powerful melody’s and lyrics which have been setting it apart since its opening night 30 years ago. Seen by over 120 million people worldwide in 45 countries and in 22 languages, Les Misérables is undisputedly one of the world’s most popular musicals.
Killian Donnelly – Jean Valjean
Nic Greenshields – Javert
Katie Hall – Fantine
Martin Ball – Thenardier
Sophie-Louise Dann – Madame Thenardier
Harry Apps – Marius
Tegan Bannister – Eponine
Will Richaardson – Enjolras
Bronwen Hanson – Cosette
It has been nearly a decade since the last touring production of Les Miserable which is now celebrating its 30th year running in the West End.
Set during the Student Uprising in Paris, Les Miserables follows the story of Ex-Con Jean-Valjean as he attempts to rebuild his life. In theory it is everything a musical shouldn’t be: long; dreary; based on a historical novel. However in reality, Les Miserables is everything but.
Now I should state, that this marks the 5th time that I have seen Les Miserables. Having seen it twice in the West End, on Broadway and on the 20th Anniversary tour, I had extremely high expectations for this particular production.
Having previously seen Killian Donnelly as Charlie in Kinky boots I was aware of his vocal ability, however was unsure of how he would stand up to such a beloved role. Lets must say I was not disappointed – from the moment he stepped on the stage his performance completely captivating. Along side other excellent cast members such as Nic Greenshields and Harry Apps the entire audience was transported back to France during the French Revolution.
An extremely intricate story with lots of twists and turns, it is easy to get confused if you are not paying attention for a minute or two. (I had to explain to my dad that the man who escaped at the start was infact Jean Valjean as he had spent the entire first half waiting for him to come back). Helpfully, this particular production had audio described screens which you could have a quick glance at during the performance if you forgot who was singing. It also helps make theatre more accessible for those who may not usually be able to go.
The staging of this production was impeccable. The movement of the set and barricades was seamless making the audience feel as though they really were part of the action. The scenes with the barricades in particular were spectacular with the staging and the lighting really coming together to create the desired dramatic effect. The only missing element was the revolving stage which I have seen in previous productions, however it certainly didn’t take away from the overall feel of the show.
Although the story and staging were excellent, it is the music that really makes Les Miserable stand out. From the opening notes, the powerful score grabs the audience and shakes them to its core, making them feel things they didn’t realise was possible in a theatre environment. Portrayed by such an excellent cast, this production was no different. Katie Hall’s rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” was a particularly stand out moment in a show full of beautiful and powerful music.
Although I have seen this show several times, I still find myself being drawn back over and over again to the story with each seemingly getting better and better. This particular production ended with a deserved ∗∗five-minute standing ovation – at least I think it did, I couldn’t really see through my tears.