Bit of a different writing format than usual but THE BIG ONE! The musical of musicals! Les Miserables!
And WHAT A PRODUCTION! It was darn near perfect- in my mind lead by the most wonderful of Javert’s (my favourite character in Les Mis) Hayden Tee. Incredible voice, and lovely guy! But everyone was wonderful, and it was wonderful ❤
Originally posted on The AU Review.
This week saw Australia’s latest production of Les Miserables march triumphantly into Sydney’s Captiol Theatre. Our Editor Larry caught the production in Melbourne and gave it a glowing review as a Les Mis first-timer, but what makes Les Miserables such a defining and unmissable musical experience?
Here’s a few points as to why we think it is. And why you should hurry on down, waving your flag, to join the revolution that is Les Mis at the Capitol too-
1. The Story
Les Miserables is a musical epic like no other. It combines all the elements of theatre into one huge breathtaking production- with drama, despair, romance and hope. The story follows the life of its protagonist Jean Valjean, a wronged convict who determinedly aims to make use of his life for the better. He is constantly dogged by the policeman Inspector Javert, who staunchly abides by the law and his duty, and who is thus seemingly unswayed by Valjean’s determination. Through acts of fate Valjean swears to the dying Fantine that he will take her child Cosette into his care, at which begins his new journey.
Valjean and the grown Cosette then travel into the midst of unrest, where students plan a revolt against the Government. Cosette falls for one of the handsome students (Marius), and the two pledge an everlasting love to the other. When Valjean finds out about their commitment he takes it upon himself to protect Marius as the students wage their desperate and doomed revolution.
And so tells Les Miserables tale of the struggles of life and the cruelty of people, matched by its glimmering rays of hope and the happiness of young love. A tale that you will fall so deeply into during your time in the theatre that it will be quite a shock when the flags wave for the final time and the characters (that you are now very attached to) all return to the stage for a triumph reprise of “Do You Hear The People Sing?”. Yes, yes we do!
2. The Capitol Theatre
The Capitol Theatre almost seems like a custom built stage for a production of Les Mis- it is all at once able to seem large and imposing and dark and cramped. A feat that is possible due to an incredible set and lighting design.
In this production the fateful barricade does not turn, instead using its static position to create the illusion of “them vs. us”. And as each shot lights up an individual, and they crumble upon the barricade, we feel the effect with a whole lot more despair at the tragic waste of each young life.
The acoustics in the Capitol are also fantastic for the production, with each note and sigh being caught and echoed through the theatre. And it not only amplifies the noise on stage, but builds the deafening roar of cheers in the crowd, encouraging the audience’s appreciation and in turn encouraging the actors on stage.
3. The Cast
This is such a perfect casting, full of actors who are so able to recreate their characters that you have no choice but to become involved in their struggles.
Simon Gleeson creates a Valjean who, across his passing years, shows a man who is simultaneously both so strong and resolute, yet kind-hearted and sadly broken, and all this with the most astounding vocal range. He is joined in perfect chemistry with his fixated rival Javert, who Hayden Tee hits spot on. Tee’s Javert may very well be the best since Philip Quast himself, and his unyielding strength translates perfectly into Tee’s powerful and commanding baritone.
Patrice Tipoki (Fantine), Kerrie Anne Greenland (Eponine) and Emily Langridge (Cosette) are women who fight back against the harshness of life and dream dreams of hope. Their voices are each uniquely beautiful, despairing and hopeful. They are joined in their hopeful dreams by the students, led by Chris Durling (Enjorlas) and Euan Doidge (Marius).
Of course a crowd favourite is the disgustingly despicable and hilariously wonderful Thenardiers, Lara Mulcahy and Trevor Ashley, who prance about the stage to deafening laughter and cheers.
The whole cast is supported by an equally strong ensemble, who bring to life this despairing world with soaring harmonies.
4. The Music
Which leads us to the music. There is no doubt that you have heard something from Les Mis, even if you are unaware of its origin in the musical, but the well known pieces “I Dreamed a Dream”, “One Day More” and “Bring Him Home” are so much more captivating in their original setting.
Other lesser known standouts are the powerful opening “Prologue” filled with the booming chants of convicts, the wonderful fun of “Master of the House” which always gets the crowd clapping along, and Javert’s incredible anthem-like soliloquy “Stars”.
The music of Les Mis is some of the most notable in all musical theatre, and it is impossible to not feel affected by it’s beautiful melodies and hopeful choruses.
5. The Whole Experience
Les Miserables is more than just a musical, it is an experience unlike most other theatre. It is just so overwhelmingly and breatakingly big! Its story and music is incredibly moving, and leads you to become so attached to its characters that you will remember them long after the curtain falls.
When it was announced that Les Mis would be premiering in Australia once again, its first return since 1989, several people reminisced to me about their experiences seeing the production all those 26 years ago (some even remembered the exact outfit they were wearing!). This is exactly the kind of experience that will stay with you, especially at Sydney’s grand Capitol Theatre.
It is the emotional ride of the production, full of powerful songs and incredible characters, that makeLes Miserables one of theatres most truly unmissable experiences.