The re-imagined revival of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s Tony Award-winning musical Les Misérables, featuring fresh scenic and narrative elements as well as new orchestrations, officially opened in Melbourne on July 3 at the Her Majesty’s Theatre and WOW! What a production! I was in awe from the first note from the orchestra until the curtain falls at the end of the show. I can honestly say that this was my favourite piece of theatre I have seen in Australia.
It’s been over 15 years since Les Misérables left Australian shores but it’s less than two years since Tom Hooper’s big-screen adaptation starring Hugh Jackman. Now Cameron Macintosh, arguable the worlds most powerful producer, is bringing back Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg’s blockbuster musical about 19th-century France with a first-rate cast and a new production. Sets by Matt Kinley are simple but elegant and they are accompanied by projections that match every scene perfectlywhilst alsoincorporating original paintings by Les Miserables’ author Victor Hugo.
The big winner of this new production Simon Gleeson as he makes a sterling attempt at one of the most well-known characters in musical theatre history. He sets a high standard in the prologue, performing Valjean’s angry opening scenes with fiery intensity and full-throttled vocalism.The highlight of his performance, and perhaps the production as a whole, is Gleeson’s rendition of “Bring Him Home”. The audience certainly appreciated it with a thunderous applause, which went for what felt like an eternity, but it was definitely well deserved.
Hayden Tee is ramrod straight as Inspector Javert, a man so in control of his emotions that even his speech is hyper-punctuated. Unrelenting and stingy with mercy, Tee has the slightly unhinged quality of a bloodhound, a performance that explains why he must take desperate measures when doubt creeps in.Patrice Tipoki as the doomed Fantine is lovely and her “I Dreamed a Dream” mixes rage and pitifulness into a tour de force.
Kerrie Anne Greenland has spunk as Eponine, whose unrequited love for Marius is so easily relatable – she was a stand-out in this cast of talented people, which is saying something. Her rendition of “On My Own” was outstanding and I had to muster every fibre of my being not to give her a standing ovation then and there. Emily Langridge makes for a pleasing, and vocally strong, adult Cosette. Her presence on stage makes you see why Marius falls for her so quickly, something that Cosette’s have been lacking in other productions I’ve seen.
Chris Durling is a commanding Enjolras, one you’d certainly follow into battle. But the real stand-out of the “students” is Euan Doidge in the role of Marius. He has the perfect balance of confidence and innocence, particularly during “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” – the staging, acting and vocals of this song were nothing short of perfection.
We mustn’t forget to acknowledge the merry antics of the deviousThenardiers; the innkeepers from whom Valjean rescues the ill-treated young Cosette. This greedy duo injects a mostly serious musical with comic vulgarity in their number “Master of the House”. Trevor Ashley frolics around confidently as he swindles his customers during the song, while Lara Mulcahyscowls and complains, shooting daggers at her husband as if deciding whether to endure him or put him through the handy meat grinder.
A special mention needs to go to the children of this production as well, not a note or step out of place. Gavroche is played so fantastically that you can’t help but be pulled in by his boyish, confident charms and feel as though your heart has been pulled out of your chest by his demise.
With all facets of this production being almost perfect I cannot recommend seeing this show enough. I will certainly be seeing Les Miserbles more than once. With an incredible cast, mind-blowing staging and orchestrations songs that will stay with you for years to come, how can you not love Les Miserables?!It’s timeless classic that once you’ve seen it, it will stay with you for sometime.
Les Miserable is currently playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne. Tickets are available through Ticketek: HERE