I find it so difficult to resume to ‘normal life’ after a trip to London to see a West End show. For days after, I always feel the need to tell everyone that I encounter about my amazing experience regardless of whether they care or not, play the soundtrack on the top volume on every device possible, and endlessly tweet about every tiny detail of the day and the performance.
I went to see Les Misérables for the sixth time at the matinee performance on Wednesday 6th April… on my own and it was an absolutely stunning show; yet again.
Whenever someone asks me what Les Misérables is about, I panic. How can you possibly explain Les Mis in a concise manner and still contain every detail without making it sound tedious? It’s literally ten stories in one. Avoid the content in blue if you don’t want any spoilers regarding the storyline of Les Mis… I literally couldn’t summarise it any less.
Les Misérables, produced by Sir Cameron Mackintosh and written by Boublil and Schönberg, tells the story of an ex-convict named Jean Valjean. After serving nineteen years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread, Valjean is released on parole and is given a ticket-of-leave forcing him to be an outcast in society. He breaks his parole and decides to start his life anew following an act of kindness demonstrated by the Bishop of Digne.
Eight years pass and Valjean, now under the name of Monsieur Madeleine, becomes a factory owner and the Mayor of Montreuil-Sur-Mer. Working in one of his factories, Fantine is found to have an illegitimate child who is living with an innkeeper man and his wife and [she] pays for the child… what is the matter with that? She is forced out of her job and turns to prostitution to earn enough money to save her ‘ill’ daughter.
Valjean learns of her downfall and promises Fantine that he will look after her daughter, Cosette, when she is at rest.The Thénardiers abuse Cosette whilst indulging their own daughter, Éponine. Javert, who now learns that Prisoner 24601 is the Mayor, is determined to send Valjean back to prison.
Nine years pass and the death of the only man concerned with the poor in the Government is imminent which causes unrest within the city. Now grown up, the Thénardier’s daughter, Éponine secretly falls in love with a politically-minded student named Marius who is otherwise keen for Cosette.
Following the death of Lamarque, the students plan a revolution for ‘a new world that will rise up like the sun.’
Javert ‘volunteers’ himself to help the students but is exposed as a spy by Gavroche when he leaks false information about the opposition’s plans of attack. He is tied up. Learning of his daughter’s new found love to Marius, Valjean volunteers himself at the revolution to save Marius’ life so he can bring him home (HA!) to Cosette. Valjean spares Javert’s life .
The revolution takes the lives of Éponine and Gavroche and all the students, sparing the life of Marius Pontmercy who is rescued by Valjean. Javert, consumed with guilt from Valjean’s mercy, ends his own life. Nursed back to health by Cosette, Marius is unaware of who his saviour was on the night that the barricade fell. Jean Valjean confesses his true identity as Prisoner 24601 to Marius and flees before their wedding day. At the wedding, Marius realises who had saved him from the barricade when the Thénardiers blackmail him. Cosette and Marius try to find Valjean where Cosette learns about his life as he passes away.
… And breathe.
From the second the orchestra started playing ‘ba dum, dum, dum, dum’ and the curtain rose, I had tears streaming down my face. It took the entirety of ten whole seconds until I was a bawling mess. I profoundly apologise to the two families sitting on either side of me. I was sitting next to the family of an ensemble member. Claim to fame.
Peter Lockyer played the role of Jean Valjean. He delivered such a powerful and emotional performance and managed to enthral the audience within the first ten minutes of the prologue. What have I done? Sweet Jesus. What have I done? His performance was consistent throughout and he has such an amazing vocal range as demonstrated by Who Am I and Bring Him Home. The hardships suffered by Valjean was portrayed through such emotion that I really had to resist squeezing his cheeks and telling him that all will be okay. Having seen the likes of Ramin Karimloo as my ‘first’ Jean Valjean in 2012, it is hard to find a Valjean that follows in his footsteps. Simon Shorten is a personal favourite edging towards the top spot. Peter Lockyer gave an outstanding performance and takes the trophy as my ‘fourth favourite Valjean.’
Jeremy Secomb who played Javert was phenomenal… and scary. He has truly mastered the arts of delivering facial expressions which intimidate the living daylight out of you. His rendition of Stars resonated within the theatre and he has a remarkable voice. The confrontation scene between Valjean and Javert was so powerful, I genuinely feared for their lives. Their voices complemented each others beautifully. Another brawl in the square, another stink in the air.
Patrice Tipoki reprised the role of Fantine having played the role previously in Australia. Her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream was vocally sound and moved me to tears. Having last seen Celinde Schoenmaker play one of the saddest stories of the West End, Patrice Tipoki didn’t quite compare to the vocals and delivery like Celinde. That being said, Patrice is still extremely talented and it was a privilege to watch her perform.
I was lucky enough to catch Eva Noblezada’s third performance as Éponine. She was mind-blowing in this role. I’m absolutely speechless when it comes to reviewing this performance as she was tremendous. What a voice! Eva played an absolutely besotted Éponine who had her strong traits of independence and yet the vulnerability of the character was still able to shine through. She portrayed so much emotion in On My Own that I was forced to wallow in sadness by the end of the song. Having seen her in Miss Saigon as Kim twice, she is no stranger to heartbreak and death in a role. A Little Fall of Rain was delivered so beautifully and so emotionally. I truly thought that I would never see happiness again. AND SHE’S ONLY TWENTY YEARS OLD. The skies begin to clear and I’m at rest. A breath away from where you are, I’ve come home from so far.
Craig Mather reprised the role of Marius. When I first saw Les Mis in 2012, he was my first Marius and he lived up to the expectations of memory. He played such a youthful Marius whose innocence is shown throughout the performance. And please, don’t get me started on Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. I was bawling at his grief, especially when the ghosts of the Barricade Boys came on the stage. Why would you inflict that much sadness onto the audience like that? My friends, my friends, don’t a(r)sk me what your sacrifice was for.
I couldn’t wait to see Zoe Doano‘s Cosette. When the 2015 casting was announced, I longed to see Zoe’s portrayal of Cosette having seen her as the ensemble in 2012. Cosette is a character that is often difficult to connect with, mainly because everyone is rooting for Éponine. Unrequited love really does pull on the heart strings. Zoe’s Cosette reminds you why Marius chooses Cosette and she makes the character so likeable. A heart full of love. No fear, no regret.
Tamsin Dowsett, understudy Madame Thénardier, has been a casting that I have always wanted to see. Her performance was amazing and it was truly an honour to have finally see her throw a bucket on a table. Her Madame Thénardier was hilarious and her Master of the House was very well executed… thinks he’s quite a lover but there’s not much there. If you ever get the chance to see her as Mme T, do it.
Phil Daniels took the role of the Master of the House, Thénardier. Being an actor, you could tell that acting was his forte. His singing was adequate but it’s the role of Thénardier. You don’t HAVE to be able to sing to make the performance effective. His acting compensated for his singing and his performance was hilarious. His facial expressions to his body language were spot on.
Bradley Jaden played the role of Enjolras. His vocals were so powerful; I wanted to join the revolution. His stature, stage presence and acting were incredible and he is so attractive. SO attractive. It is time for us all to decide who we are.
Credit is also due to the Ensemble members and the Swings. Jessamy Stoddart, Jordan Lee Davis and Adam Bayjou notably stood out despite having a smaller role in the show. Their stage presence really shone.
Following the show, I was lucky enough to meet an internet friend and some of the cast members.
Do you hear the people sing? Say, do you hear the distant drums? It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes!