I booked to see this as soon as it was announced that Alfie Boe and Matt Lucas were to re-create the roles they had performed at the 25th anniversary concert, but this time in the full company of Les Mis at The Queen’s Theatre. I went to see this days after the 3 day break to install a state of the art sound system and enlarge the orchestra pit to accommodate the musicians needed to play the new scoring from the 25th anniversary concert. It was also the first week of the new cast.
I am sure everyone knows what a fantastic singer Alfie Boe is, but how would he cut it in musical theatre, singing (in his case) 6 shows a week? Many an opera star has come to grief – either unable to lose their operatic stylings or live up to the physical demands of this type of performing.
Well he was truly world-class. When he started singing I thought, wow this is beautiful but when he unleashed his voice using his full range it was truly spectacular. Rarely have I sat in a theatre and felt a singers voice reverberate from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. The hairs on my arms were actually standing on end. It did help that I was in the centre of the third row and could quite literally see the whites of his eyes, but from the ear-splitting roars from the standing ovation at the end, which had many of the cast, including Boe and Lucas in tears at the end, I think everyone agreed.
Now, to the rest of the cast and Thenardier, who is not exactly the subtlest of roles in this show, in fact, he provides the only moments of light-heartedness and comedy. It’s often taken totally over the top, and you would think with a comedian in the role he would take it to the extreme – but Matt Lucas (above) elevated Thenardier to a whole new level – his comic timing was sublime and in some instances so subtle, at times all it took was a tiny look and the audience were howling with laughter. His voice more than held up and was a charming surprise.
Now to the rest of the cast. Caroline Sheen (above) was pretty underwhelming vocally as Fantine and looked almost manic at points when she was required to act with any emotion. Which begs the question when are they going to get someone who can actually fill this role. They have one of musical theatre’s best known and most loved songs and I have yet to hear it done any justice in the theatre. Thankfully the strength of the other performances around her didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the show.
Hadley Fraser has a superb voice and was a Javert of strength and presence. The only criticism were the odd facial expressions at times (a glimmer of which we’re treated to above). He was an angry Javert, a very ANGRY in fact, and I’ve read in other blogs that he was the same when they went. On the whole though, a commanding Javert and Fraser is a massive musical talent with a stunning voice.
Alexia Khadime (above with Craig Mather) was perfectly adequate as Eponine but she brought little either vocally or dramatically to the part. Craig Mather as Marius was of fine voice and showed up his predecessor Gareth Gates weak vocals.
Liam Tamne (above) was a spectacularly good Enjolras, very charismatic, both his voice and his acting were fabulous.
One audience member from the US who had seen it in London twice before, on Broadway and the American tour, left in tears saying she had never seen a performance like it. It was truly magical – powerful, emotional and life-affirming – truly wonderful.