31 August 2019

Les Miserables - Theatre Royal

I can't believe I've never seen a production of Les Mis. I feel a bit embarrassed, being a bit of a theatre buff. Of course I've seen Tom Hooper's 2012 film and watched half of the recent BBC production (must watch the rest) and love the goosebump-inducing soundtrack. But last night eclipsed both of these (and the clips of Gaten Matarazzo from Stranger Things playing Gavroche on Broadway - actually they were pretty great)! 

Les Miserables Theatre Royal
Revolutionary - the Les Mis cast
It's hard to believe that the first performance was in 1980 in Paris, and its the the longest running musical in the West End (1985 to 2019). Victor Hugo's epic 1862 novel (which took him two decades to write) captured the imagination of composer Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyricists Alain Boublil/Jean-Marc Natal. The lyrics were rewritten in English by Herbert Kretzmer, super producer Cameron Mackintosh adapted it in English and the rest in history. Initially scorned by critics, the audiences fell in love with the brilliant score, Jean Valjean's journey from embittered convict to respected Mayor and saviour of Cosette and the tragic revolutionary battle of the second Act.

The Thenardiers and company
The score! What can I say! From the comedy and slapstick of "Master of the House" by the cheating, low-life Thenardiers, "Lovely Ladies," a surprisingly catchy tale of prostitution and the weirdly upbeat pessimism of factory workers "At The End Of The Day" to the haunting solo "I Dreamed A Dream" by poor, destitute Fantine daughter and Eponine's heartbreaking "On My Own," it's certainly a rollercoaster of emotion and amazing storytelling by the writers. The cast's voices were incredible, especially Katie Hall (Fantine), Tegan Bannister (Eponine) and of course Killian Donnelly (Jean Valjean) and Nic Greenshields (villain Javert). Monsieur and Madame Thenardier, played by Martin Ball and Sophie-Louise Dann) are the much needed comic relief that balance out the heavier moments and do a great job.

The set (by Matt Kinley) was amazing, with so many moving parts created with stunning detail, scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo himself and hyperrealistic special effects (the smoke and gunfire was particularly effective). It goes without saying that the costumes (by Andreane Neofitou) were exceptional and play a huge part in transporting you back to 1830s France.

After nearly three hours of completely engrossing action and a rollercoaster of emotions, a standing ovation was inevitable. I laughed, I cried (prepare yourself for Act II), I got goosebumps, I marvelled the scale of the whole thing and my friends and I were singing the songs for a good few weeks afterwards. Ne le manque pas! (Don't miss it)!

Five stars, no question! 

Les Mis is at Theatre Royal Newcastle until Saturday 5th October - get tickets here

*I received a ticket in exchange for a review

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