Based on Victor Hugo’s door-stopper of a novel, it follows one man’s story of survival in the face of persecution amidst social and political upheavals in 19th Century Paris.
The original London show, a collaboration between the Royal Shakespeare Company and Cameron Mackintosh, opened at the Barbican on 8 October 1985. It then moved to the Palace Theatre, when in 2004, moved to it’s current home of the Queen’s Theatre. The Queen’s is currently being refurbished, and whilst this happens, Les Mis has moved next door to the Giegud as a concert version.
Starring some of the biggest names to have graced Les Mis, this version strips back from the acting and provides some of the most powerful versions of the most famous songs in musical theatre.
From the very first bar to the last encore, Les Mis the concert does not fail to entertain, and to take you on an emotional journey a normal musical would find it difficult to achieve.
With Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean, and Michael Ball as Javert, leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is a star-studded cast that have the “miz” running through their veins. Add into the mix Carrie Hope Fletcher as Fantine (who’s previously played young Éponine and older Éponine), and Matt Lucas – probably known best for comedy with Little Britain and in Dr Who) – you have one of the finest casts to hit London’s West End in many a year.
With a musical concert, the main staging is different, and the orchestra becomes the backdrop. This also helps I feel bring a different level of emotion to the soundtrack. You feel you’re completely immersed in the sound. That together with the lighting brings this production to a different level to a normal musical.
Stand out moments for me include Carrie’s “I dreamed a dream”. You could feel she knows the character inside out so knew how to being the emotion from within the lyrics. Also, Alfie Boe’s “Bring him home”. I would say it’s one the most amazing performances I’ve seen, if I could say I saw it, as I spent pretty much the entire last 2/3 of the song with tears running down my face (damn Hay Fever).
I will admit to being not the biggest Michael Ball fan. Having seen him previously in Hairspray, wasn’t really expecting much (sorry Michael), but was pleasantly surprised. Having previously played Marius in the original production in 1985, becoming Javert certainly made me appreciate how good Michael is.
Favourite Matt Lucas moment happens when Jean Valjean comes to take Cossette from the Thénardier’s. If you know the plot, then you’d know where the songs fit and their meaning. If you weren’t a massive fan, then Matt Lucas questioning who Jean was and what’s he doing there may have just confused you a little. That aside, Matt Lucas is one of musical theatre’s hidden gems!
Your opportunity to see this amazing show is quite limited (end of November 2019), and I’m hoping there’ll be a filmed version released so more people can witness how brilliant this show is.
I went into the Gielgud Theatre as someone who’d seen the musical few years back and quite liked it. I came out as a massive fanboy. The cast, the staging, the sound – all amazing!
✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ ✶
Review by Patrick Downes