Tag Archives: Hadley Fraser

FEATURE: Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert DVD

Last night’s DVD was the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary concert with a cast, orchestra and choir of 500.

Alfie Boe (above) is Jean Valjean and showed remarkable control of his operatic tenor,  delivering a full-throttle vocal intensity only when absolutely necessary in the role. His  inspirational rendition of “Bring Him Home” stopped the show. Boe appeared sincerely moved by the enthusiastic standing ovation of the over 18,000 in  attendance at the O2 arena. It was completely deserved.

Norm Lewis who plays Javert, is a Broadway veteran and here he finally has a starring, rather than supporting role. I was lucky enough to see him play Javert in the full production of Les Mis at The Queen’s Theatre. Thanks to this DVD, many others will now get the chance to hear his excellent voice.

Ramin Karimloo freed from his Phantom makeup was a handsome, inspiring and strong-voiced Enjoloras and received a massive cheer at the end.

Nick Jonas (a controversial casting) is not equal in voice in any way to  his co-performers and had the most peculiar expressions throughout, but here (above) with Katie Hall as Cosette, he made for a suitably youthful Marius.

The highly talented and ever reliable Hadley Fraser (above) is a fine Grantaire, his voice here is astounding, his range and tone are just fabulous, it’s a pity he doesn’t have a bigger role. Fraser is another performer I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in the Queen’s Theatre production – that time playing Javert.

Matt Lucas fulfils a lifetime dream of appearing in Les Mis and uses his comedic talents to their best effect as Thenardier.

Lea Salonga is Fantine and equips herself well enough, but I must admit I found her American twang a bit strong.

Special mention must also go to little Robert Madge (above), a scene-stealer as Gavroche.

This is, of course, a concert, but in order to add more of a theatrical feeling to the performance the actors were  costumed in either designs from the original production or the 25th Anniversary UK tour. The production  design was enhanced with a multi-level set to accommodate the 500-member cast,  orchestra and choir. In lieu of the  building of the barricade, the massive lighting tracks descended and tilted  complemented by spectacular lighting effects. Video projections from the stage version added further drama to replace scenes  that could not be conveyed in a concert environment. Overall only minor cuts were made from the full theatrical version – and none of the cuts particularly hurt the  final product.

Due to the  constraints of a concert production, and the fact that this was being filmed for both cinema and DVD release the actors had obviously been told to rein in the theatrics. Several of the ensemble  were on the verge of acting out the roles they had either played before or were currently playing in the West End in full theatricality if not for the  reminder of the microphone in front of them.

A highlight of the evening was the  appearance of The Four Valjeans (above l-r); Simon Bowman (Queen’s  Theatre cast), Alfie Boe, Colm Wilkinson (the  original cast) and John Owen-Jones (Barbican  Theatre cast) their version of “Bring Him Home” was utterly moving. Each of the four are supremely gifted performers. I love this musical, it really does have the power to move you. I defy anyone not to have a tear in their eye at the end of this and I urge anyone who gets the chance to go and see it on stage.

Dress Circle - The Greatest Showbiz Shop In The World

Les Miserables Official London Merchandise

FEATURE: Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary DVD

I watched this last night after a fortuitous sale purchase. Now it’s easy to criticise everything Andrew Lloyd Webber produces. So with an open mind, I sat down to enjoy this.

And did I? Absolutely! In the confines of The Royal Albert Hall which by no stretch of the imagination can be called a theatre – this was magnificent.

It stars Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess as The Phantom and Christine, both veterans of the original Phantom and the recent follow up Love Never Dies.

Now, Karimloo has his detractors among theatre critics but he is also regarded by many as the golden boy of musical theatre. Here, he is impressive. His voice soars and he is, in turn, sinister, menacing and heartbreakingly vulnerable.

The supporting cast is made up of Phantom veterans and members of the current Her Majesty’s production. It has a cast and orchestra of over 200 in contrast to the usual 40. On the whole they equip themselves very well, however the inclusion of Wynne “Go Compare” Evans was a bit of a jarring note.

Outside of his Gino Compario costume I’m not sure anyone in the audience actually knew who he was, and when he was called to fluff some notes for comedic effect the audience didn’t quite get the joke and remained silent.

Hadley Fraser plays Raoul and has an incredible voice, with great strength and power and phenomenal tone, he was absolutely excellent in the role, playing it with a maturity that is often lacking in other castings. Instead of the spoilt little rich boy whom you wonder why Christine would ever consider, he gives The Phantom a run for his money and you really believe Christine’s dilemma.

As with many recent productions this features a lot of projected scenery, now I’m not thoroughly convinced of its effectiveness as it can sometimes lack atmosphere but here, combined with props – it works.

If you get a chance to see this go for it, it really is worth it. If you’re a fan of The Phantom already you’ll love it!

Dress Circle - The Greatest Showbiz Shop In The World

Phantom of the Opera Official London Merchandise

REVIEW: Les Miserables – Queen’s Theatre, London

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.

Dress Circle - The Greatest Showbiz Shop In The World

Les Miserables Official London Merchandise