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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.

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Les Miserables Official London Merchandise

REVIEW: Les Miserables – Queen’s Theatre, London

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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