THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH – 6 JULY 2019 & TOUR
RUNNING TIME 3 HOURS – 1 interval
Les Miserables is at Theatre Royal Plymouth until 6 July. Check Box Office daily for returns
Theatre Royal Plymouth Box Office – 01752 267222
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 14 JUNE 2019
I last saw a professional production of the musical ‘Les Miserables’ in the late 1980’s in London. Already a phenomenon when I saw it, I have, sketchy memories of aspects of the production, but, of course, the music has become – some would say overly – familiar through many interpretations by singers and through the its incarnation in film.
Having opened to mixed reviews in 1985 it took to the theatres of the world like a duck to water and audiences have flocked to see it ever since. In 2009 a revised version was created; new sets, costumes, orchestrations along with the addition of projections and some adjustments to lyrics. I am not going to spend time comparing the original with the new – I can’t recall the 80s as well as that. So, this production was viewed with fresh eyes and with much anticipation.
It’s difficult not to admire every aspect of this show in some way or another. This juggernaut of a production starts coming at you the moment you are in your seat and doesn’t come to a halt until it has battered you about and engaged every part of your being.
The story is clearly told, though the political machinations which bring about the rebellion in the second act are sketched over somewhat for the sake of time; being sung-through, lengthy explanations and expositions are difficult to convey. Within the tale though, we have love, death (a lot of it), humour (not a huge amount), drama, war, peace, sorrow, regret, revenge, compassion and much more – there is not a dull moment; the show moves with great pace.
As production values go, there can be few shows that boast such a level of skill, imagination and execution. The sets, by Mat Kinley, are big and bulky and absolutely right – they glide on and off stage with ease; though there must be precious little room backstage. The lighting too is a star of the show – designed by the very brilliant Paule Constable, the operation needs pinpoint accuracy and that is what we get. There are times when we seem to be viewing a series of exquisite paintings.
The projections are very good – based on the paintings of Victor Hugo himself, they add depth and atmosphere and create an almost cinematic quality to the show.
Under the direction of Ben Atkinson, the orchestra, fill the auditorium with tunes familiar and less so; they make a glorious sound and give full voice providing tricky – but generally successful – balancing for the Sound team. With the music comes the voices – the ensemble work is as together and powerful as you could wish to hear and, with a couple of exceptions, the solo work is equally successful.
The arc the character of Jean Valjean is a real challenge for the performer and the very experienced Killian Donnelly pulls it off in no uncertain terms – this is a very good performance which uses immense skill – he carries the aging process as well as you could wish. His nemesis, the obsessive Javert, is given impressive presence and voice – not least in ‘Stars’ – by Nic Greenshields – his disintegration in Act Two is also well handled and his finale is a triumph of technical knowhow.
Though a relatively small part, Katie Hall is first-rate as the ill-fated Fantine and Harry Apps is very good as Marius, a bit of a thankless part, but his singing of ‘Empty Chairs’ puts it up several notches.
I was slightly less sure of the voice of Bronwen Hanson as Cosette, which seemed to struggle a little and Tegan Bannister as Eponine lacks a certain something.
Pinching the limelight at every moment, is the very excellent Jude Muir whose cheeky chappy ‘Gavroche’ is a triumph. Martin Hall and Sophie-Louise Dann squeeze every drop out of their performances as the villainous Thernardiers – the danger of just tipping over into pantomime is very real, but they just resist this to create wonderfully amusing, repellent and conniving grotesques – fabulous.
The theatre is packed – it is packed for three weeks – it will be packed at every performance on this tour. ‘Les Miserables’ is still packing them in in London and across the world. It is easy to see why. The standard of this production is so high and by bringing it around the country, the fans of this show will only increase massively on a daily basis.
There are those who are sniffy about the show – I can see no good reasons to be so.
It’s big. It’s bold. It’s brilliant!
JEAN VALJEAN – KILLIAN DONNELLY
JAVERT – NIC GREENSHIELDS
FANTINE – KATIE HALL
THERNARDIER – MARTIN BALL
MADAME THERNARDIER – SOPHIE-LOUISE DANN
EPONINE – TEGAN BANNISTER
MARIUS – HARRY APPS
ENJOLRAS – WILL RICHARDSON
COSETTE – BRONWEN HANSON
GAVROCHE – JUDE MUIR
LITTLE COSETTE – CERYS SINGLETON
BISHOP – BRIAN JAMES LEYS
MUSIC – CLAUDE-MICHEL SCHONBERG
LYRICS – HERBERT KRETZMER
ORIGINAL FRENCH TEXT – ALAIN BOUBLIL & JEAN-MARC NATEL based on the novel by VICTOR HUGO
DIRECTED BY LAURENCE CONNOR & JAMES POWELL
MUSICAL DIRECTOR – BEN ATKINSON
LIGHTING DESIGN – PAULE CONSTABLE
SOUND – MICK POTTER
PROJECTIONS – FIFTY-NINE PRODUCTIONS
COSTUME DESIGN – ANDREANE NEOFITOU & CHRISTINE ROWLAND
SET & IMAGE DESIGN – MAT KINLEY