Les Miserables is Truly Spectacular

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‘Les  Miserables’ is not like the other big musicals. It’s a significantly more complex story line, its themes are bold and virtuous and the music is operatically rich.

The new production that opened at Crown Theatre this week is an impressively grand production that must be seen. The show features brilliant performances, visually stunning sets and the music will fill your heart.

For the uninitiated, ‘Les Miserables’ follows the life of Jean Valjean. We meet him as he is given parole after 19 years imprisonment. His crime, stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s son. Valjean breaks his parole and runs away, a priest takes him in – but Valjean steals all his silver. Valjean is caught, but when the priest shows him mercy he decides to lead a better life.

Eight years later Valjean has assumed a new identity as a town Mayor and business man. We meet Fantine, a woman who has fallen on hard times, the nefarious Innkeepers The Thenardiers, who look after Fantine’s daughter Cosette and the Innkeepers own daughter Eponine. All along Valjean is pursued by the relentless Inspector Javert, and when Valjean’s identity his revealed he flees again.

In the second half of the story, set another nine year later, Valjean has relocated to Paris. He looks after Cosette who has fallen in love with a young student, Marius. Eponine is also in love with Marius, who is at the centre of a student revolution. Once again Inspector Javert appears.

While other musicals rely on the spectacle of a helicopter landing on stage, a flying car or witch, or chimney sweeps dancing over the ceiling, this show puts the performers’ talent front and centre.

With a stroke of casting genius, this production features a troupe of artists who deliver perfect performances.

Simon Gleeson plays the protagonist Jean Valjean with great depth, taking us on a journey of moral decisions and identity discovery. Gleeson is simply brilliant.

One of the many highlights of the show is Gleeson’s delivery of ‘Bring Him Home’ as Valjean pleads with God to spare the life of Marius. Gleeson’s captivating and emotive plea is sung in a gentle quiet voice that moves rapidly to a powerful bellow, and then back again to a subtle whisper. It’s a delicate performance that brought tears to the audience.

Patrice Tipoki flawlessly delivers the show’s signature tune ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ as Fantine realises the reality of her life is not going to match the dreams she held as a young girl. There are few songs in musical theatre that are as epic of this one.

Hayden Tee plays Inspector Javert with a large dose of humanity, showing us that his character is not just simply an evil policeman hunting down our hero Valjean, but an honest man trying to do what he thinks is right.

One of the great discoveries of this production is Kerrie Anne Greenland (pictured above), the WAPPA graduate plays Eponine. The extended applause that Greenland received on opening night in Perth was truly well deserved. Greenland singing ‘On My Own’ is a show stopping moment.

Trevor Ashley and Lara Mulcahy deliver a mountain of comedy in the show as the devious Inn-Keepers The Tenardiers. The duo don’t miss a single opportunity to give us a laugh and deliver one of the show’s biggest numbers ‘Master of the House’.

Euan Doige and Emily Langridge are perfectly matched as Marius and Cosette, giving the show its big romance. Doige has a distinct voice that is a great contrast to the other cast members, is voice is soft and earnest – perfect for this part.

Chris Durling rounds out the main cast in the role of student leader Enjolras, mesmerising, fearless and undeniably handsome, we’d happily follow him into any revolution.

Also delivering great performances in the show is a group of young actors taking turns of playing the roles of young Cosette, Eponine and young protester Gavroache.

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Victor Hugo’s epic tale takes on some big themes, this is a show about honour, redemption, love, freedom, oppression and the classes. It’s a truly epic story and it’s delivered in a suitably epic style.

The sets designed by Matt Kinley are impressive as the twist and turn to form a variety of different buildings and locations, the massive street barricade where the students protest makes a memorable entrance.

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What really makes this show though is some amazing lighting design by Paule Constable. The whole production looks like it was painted by Rembrandt. The stage is predominately dark and bright shards of light highlight the action.

The production has added 150 extra speakers to the auditorium to achieve an impressive surround sound effect. When the barricade is under siege, it sounds like the bullets are actually whizzing past your ears.

People who have already seen the show are likely to be queuing up to buy a second round of tickets – so act quickly if you don’t want to miss out.

‘Les Miserables’ is at the Crown Theatre until Sunday March 1st, tickets are available via Ticketek.

Graeme Watson

Graeme attended the show’s opening night in Perth on Tuesday January 7th. Graeme previously traveled to Melbourne to see the show as a guest of the production.

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