How can you see the same show so many times? Doesn’t it get boring?
No, no, no. Honestly, every time is sooooo different.
But it’s the same story and the same songs?
I saw Les Misérables for the ninth time just before Christmas with my wonderful friend, Alice.
Alice and I were strolling through Embankment on the quest for Christmas markets when we lost track of time. We had 25 minutes to mad-dash to the Queens Theatre. We caught the nearest Tube at Westminster, got off at Green Park and managed to squeeze on the most crammed carriage to Piccadilly Circus. We were sat in our seats at 14:26pm. Talk about cutting it fine.
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.
Adam Bayjou played the role of Jean Valjean at this performance and holy moly, he is incredible. I had waited so long for the chance to see Adam in this role and it’s happened twice in my last two visits. I’m blessed. His voice is truly outstanding; he encapsulates so much wisdom, compassion and hardship in every note he sings. Having seen the likes of Ramin Karimloo, Geronimo Rauch, Daniel Koek and Peter Lockyer, I daresay that Adam Bayjou takes the throne as my favourite Valjean (maybe joint with Ramin Karimloo, because c’mon, it’s Ramin Karimloo).
Javert was played by Jeremy Secomb (who is currently in rehearsals in New York for Sweeney Todd- I’d sell my soul to see him in this production. Hurry back to the West End please!). I had always thought that Tam Mutu would be my favourite actor to play Javert but every time I see Jeremy Secomb, I am left in awe. He is the most perfect casting. In hindsight, Javert doesn’t have much stage time unlike Valjean however, Jeremy has such a strong stage presence that you’re instantly captured with every note he sings. Secomb’s portrayal of Javert highlights that, deep down, he really isn’t a bad chap; he’s just doing his job.
Hollie O’Donoghue amazed me as Eponine. She surpassed all expectations and fully reduced me to tears. Her performance and voice is incredible. Her rendition of On My Own was effortless; she portrayed the hope and the heartbreak so well. I feel like she falls in-between the sad and angry Eponine and she’s making the role her own. I loved the relationship between herself and Marius; it was different to usual portrayals. She is infatuated with Marius but he barely acknowledges it; he only shows pity until she dies. I can’t wait to see her take on the role again next month.
Paul Wilkins reprised the role of Marius. I liked his performance but didn’t overly love it. I think I was expecting something else with him returning to the West End from the International tour. He had a pleasant voice and his acting matched the quality of his vocals and therefore, I can’t pinpoint the precise reason why I found his performance that slight bit underwhelming. Maybe, it’s because I had such high hopes that no one can exceed. He is incredibly cute though and looks the part.
Charlotte Kennedy took over the role of Cosette at the beginning of December having been a first cover. I’ve always wanted to catch Charlotte in the role so I was delighted when cast change was announced. To me, Cosette is one of the hardest roles to play. It’s so easy to make her unlikable and the stage time is so limited to make a lasting effect on the audience. Charlotte had such a delightful voice; she showed sadness, vulnerability and misery during ‘In My Life’ but not to the extent where it appears that she is whining. She shows the sweetness of the character and her Cosette is extremely lovely.
I had previously seen Lucy O’Byrne in the Sound of Music UK Tour so I was excited to see her portray Fantine. She has such a lovely, delicate voice and her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream was vocally beautiful. Having only been in the role a matter of weeks, I think she will really mature and find her own interpretation of Fantine. She just needs a little more emotion whilst singing, but surely, it only comes with practice.
Chris Cowley certainly looks the part of Enjolras; especially with his sleek, wild hair and his stature. His portrayal of Enjolras is extremely powerful and rather intense; his passion being, sometimes, overwhelming. That being said, I do massively enjoy watching his performances.
Josie Kemp! Genuinely my hero. She made her debut as Gavroche in this performance following the absence of the child actors as the emergency cover. She delivered an extremely sassy performance and it was so easy to forget that she is a twenty-two year old actress in the role of a child. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!
ADAM BAYJOU! One of the most genuinely lovely people I’ve ever met.
So thank you to wonderful cast of Les Mis for an extremely wonderful performance; as always. Also, a huge thank you to Alice for being an amazing friend!