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Sunday, 4 October 2015

Review: Les Misérables at London Queens Theatre


A return to our Theatre Blog... Victoria Ling, from 137 Imaging (www.facebook.com/137imaging)  is guest reviewer:

Les Misérables
London Queens Theatre
19th September 2015.
Booking until October 2016

It’s been a while since I have seen Les Misérables in the theatre (Manchester, five years ago to be precise) and on the back of watching the network premiere on television the hunger to see it on stage came back and a Saturday matinee awaited me at the Queens Theatre in the West End of London.

As always with these long-serving productions, there was an excitement in the air and I was right bang in the heart of the action, front row middle and the orchestra at my feet.

For anyone reading this I am sure we are aware that this musical is based on the Victor Hugo novel of a time of oppression, warfare, economic strife, famine, and disease in France where love, passion and sacrifice prevails. All the famous songs like On My Own, I Dreamed A Dream and Do You Hear The People Sing? are all there.  And if you have not heard of Les Misérables in one form or another or recognize at least one song then it is time to climb out from under that rock.

Queens Theatre is a beautiful little place and as It had been over five years I forgot how they would place such a stunning set to that stage, so hats off to the designers and engineers of such a magnificent piece of staging (John Napier).

From the get go we are thrown into emotional turmoil with the release of Jean Valjean (Bradley Jaden) of his nineteen years in a chain gang. A special mention for Jaden as he took to his first time being Valjean at this particular performance; a very hard role to take but as the performance progressed, he became stronger and confident in those shoes.

The whole ensemble was strong, from the factory workers to whores, drinkers and wedding guests. And thankfully we have comedic roles of the Thennardiers forever present (Phil Daniels and Katy Secombe) otherwise your heart would be torn apart throughout. Both Daniels and Secombe deliver their roles brilliantly. Other mentionable comedic performances come from Adam Pearce as part of the ensemble in the ‘wedding scene’ and Jo Parsons role as Grantaire as the drunken student.  Unsure if comedic is the right description of the latter but he plays a drunk-happy student brilliantly.


Each big scene is introduced to the audience with place and year from a drop screen. This helps as the musical is fast paced and covers so many events.  I guess the most memorable scene for the majority of the audience that has attended Les Misérables is the barricade scene.  The way in which it comes alive on the stage is one of the best sets I have witnessed in theatre.  We see it as a backdrop to the students planning their revolt and then both sides of the barricade in battle.  Then there is the lighting from the sewer scene and then when Javert jumps to his own death.  The lighting designers (David Hersey) have not missed a thing bringing this to life.

You cannot fault anything of Les Misérables, which is a testament to the many castings worldwide over the years.  There have been many famous faces of theatre and of the silver screen and music world that have stepped into these famous roles and not one that I saw on this particular matinee performance let the side down, so to speak.  Most mentionable would be Jeremy Secomb as Javert.  The menace in his facial expressions and that in the tone of his voice.  If I was Valjean I think I would have failed to run as Secomb had me quivering in my seat, he was that believable. Carrie Hope Fletcher taking the role as Eponine stirred every emotion in my body from being the girl in love from afar to helping the one she wanted find his own love. Secomb and Fletcher definitely stood out throughout in this particular performance.

Les Misérables is such an emotional piece of theatre.  The story, the lyrical content and the orchestral pieces tug on heartstrings.  I prepared my emotions to be ripped apart and held well but the sniffles from the grown men to each side of me were definitely in the works.  Then the ending was nearing and the return of Fantine (Rachelle Ann Go) and Valjean on his deathbed and being reunited with Cosette (Fantine’s daughter that Valjean takes under his wing) and Marius who she marries finally opened my water works. 

Whoever gets to step in each of the roles, from ensemble to main character, in Les Misérables is definitely worthy to be put on a pedestal, as these roles are very emotive and powerful and when you are approaching your 30thAnniversary with an eager audience says it all. Yes, Do You Hear The People Sing? They ask for more than One More Day if not more of Les Misérables.

Tickets:

This review was written by Victoria Ling  for Jowheretogo PR (www.jowheretogo.com). Follow Victoria on twitter @LilVik or follow her photography on Facebook (www.facebook.com/137imaging)


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