REVIEW: Les Miserables, Queen’s Theatre London starring Simon Bowman, Norm Lewis, Samantha Barks and Gareth Gates 4th April 2011

Les Misérables is the musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s great humanitarian novel of one man’s determined survival in the face of another’s vengeful persecution.  Set amid the social and political struggles of 19th century France, Les Misérables tells the story of former prisoner Jean Valjean, who is pursued for decades by his policeman nemesis, Javert.

The dramatic score includes numbers such as On My Own, One More Day, Bring Him Home and Do You Hear The People Sing?

Les Misérables is currently celebrating its 26th year in London, making it the world’s longest-running musical. The show first opened at the Barbican in 1985 before transferring to the Palace later that year, where it remained for nearly 20 years.  It opened in its present home, The Queen’s, in 2004. The show is now one of the world’s best-loved musicals and has been produced in 38 countries and translated into 21 different languages.

The current cast includes;

Simon Bowman – Jean Valjean

Norm Lewis – Javert

Gareth Gates – Marius

Katy Secombe – Madame Thenardier

Lucie Jones – Cosette

Rebecca Seale – Fantine

Martin Ball – Thenardier

Samantha Barks – Eponine

Gates, Barks and Jones are all veterans of various reality TV shows – Barks in ‘I’d do Anything’ – the search for a ‘Nancy’ in Oliver, where she came third, Jones in 2009’s X-Factor, where she lasted until week 5 where she was ousted by ‘Jedward’ and Gates from the original Pop Idol in 2002, where he was runner up to Will Young.

Simon Bowman, by contrast is a seasoned West End leading man and his talent, magnetism and professionalism as Jean Valjean shone through and Broadway veteran Norm Lewis was a strong Javert. Gareth Gates on the other hand suffered because of the strength of the rest of the cast as did Rebecca Seale, who had to deliver one of the shows most iconic tunes I Dreamed a Dream both suffered from somewhat thin voices.

Les Mis is one show that lives up to all the hype thrown at it. This is as wonderful as everyone says it is, there is a reason it’s been running for 26 years, If you haven’t seen it I urge you to go. It’ll restore your faith in human kind!

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