Sunday, 18 May 2014

Les Miserables - Review

The lights dim and the first few iconic bars of 'Look Down' blare from the speakers, travelling from the band below. There isn't a free seat in the house and people are standing in a line at the back to watch the performance. I've watched the film of Les Miserables several times, the soundtrack is one of my most played albums, I thought that I knew what to expect, I thought that I had already been fully affected by the storylines and emotions in the script. I was wrong.

One of the first things which I noticed about the play was that the songs are slightly different to the ones featured in the film. Not dramatically, just the rhythm of the singing or the way in which some of the phrases were assembled, some of the sentences had been swapped around. I thought that this was going to be a problem, that the unfamiliarity of the songs would somehow taint my enjoyment of the show. It's safe to say that didn't happen.

Another very big difference about the show in contrast to the film is that the actors on the stage could actually sing. Now, I'm not dismissing Hugh Jackman's, Russell Crowe's or anybody else's performance in the film, I thought that they portrayed the characters brilliantly but some of them didn't have the strongest voices. In the play the actor's voices sounded flawless, with such power and empathy it was amazing.

The set changes were done so quickly and quietly that often I didn't notice what was going on until they had already been changed or rearranged. In the middle of the stage a large circle was set into the floor which could rotate, this allowed the scenery to change, for us to have a different perspective of certain scenes and for characters to change their appearances quite often without the play being held up or becoming disjointed.

All of the actors were amazing as I've mentioned before and their voices were phenomenal. There were quite a few occasions of goosebumps and shivers I can tell you, and many tears were shed too! I'm just going to quickly touch on the actors who I particularly enjoyed watching, which may be a long list because they were all so talented.

Carrie Hope Fletcher plays Eponine and she was amazing. Her performance was brilliant and tears were streaming down my face when she sang 'On My Own' and 'Little Fall of Rain' which were, in my opinion, the most emotive songs of the show. I thought the effort and finesse put in by Carrie was amazing and inspiring. She also has a very popular personal YouTube channel ItsWayPastMyBedTime with some great videos including her own Cup Song Mash Up which is genius. I am wondering how she tamed her gorgeous hair enough to fit under the cap during the barricade scenes though!!

Thenadier and Madame Thenadier, played by Cameron Blakely and Wendy Ferguson, were hilarious. Their presence, even in a serious scene, really brought some comic relief to a play which, without it, could be rather overwhelming and depressing. Their performance and timing was spot-on and they had the whole audience laughing several times.

Gavroche, the little cheeky chappy who also has some brilliant one liners, was played by Tom Burgering. He had confidence and swagger which fit Gavroche perfectly and his voice was also amazing for such a young person. I have found out through research for this post that Gavroche is actually Eponine's younger brother and the Thenadiers' son which really surprised me.

Another actress who I felt deserved a mention is Ne-Young Jeon who played Fantine. She is a Korean singer and actress who was born in Holland but her accent was impeccable, I would never have guessed that she was not British. Her protrayal of Fantine, especially during her 'protitute times' was excellent. She didn't over dramatise or overact but you knew exactly what was happening to her. Her love for Cosette and determination to help her shone throughout her performance and when she sang 'I Dreamed A Dream' it was really heartfelt and harrowing.

Overall I absolutely loved the performance, I could go and watch it again straight away and it is a performance which I will hopefully see a number of times in the future. And the soundtrack is still a regular favourite of mine. I think the next step in my Les Miserables obsession will be to actually read Victor Hugo's book Les Miserables.

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