Cameron Mackintosh’s production of the epic musical storms the stage with powerful performances and immersive staging – ★★★★★
One wouldn’t be surprised if the West End musical has seen a surge in demand in recent months. There’s the recent BBC version which received mixed reviews, the announcement of a new staged concert later in the year, and the controversial news that the revolving stage at the heart of the production is to be removed when the Queen’s Theatre closes in July for refurbishments.
In the oft-adapted Victor Hugo tale, ex-prisoner Jean Valjean cares for a young girl named Cosette in a France on the brink of revolution whilst on the run from police officer Javert. All this goes on in amongst a complicated love story between Cosette, young man Marius and innkeeper’s daughter Éponine.
It all makes for an interesting but disorientating narrative and as such, while prestigious on the West End, the show is by no means infallible. The lighting does little to reveal who is speaking in those intense moments at the barricade. As a sung-through musical the set transitions are seamless, yet at times the effort to create a rousing or energetic moment leads to the script being hard to follow at times.
It’s perhaps why some of the musical’s most striking moments come with the quieter numbers. Dean Chisnall handles Valjean’s Bring Him Home with notable delicacy, while Carley Stenson delivers a moving, standout performance of Fantine’s I Dreamed A Dream.
Though that is not to say that the show is not impactful. The revolve is responsible for some striking moments in the second act (moments which would no doubt lose their force if the decision to remove the feature goes ahead). Elsewhere, Steven Meo gives a hilarious, comical and slightly pantomime-esque take on aforementioned innkeeper Thénadier throughout – most notably in his song Master of the House, as expected. Meanwhile, Do You Hear The People Sing is packed with loud, booming vocals from the ensemble, aided with a brilliant crescendo from Steve Moss’ orchestra.
Crafted with precision in terms of its cast, set and music, the original Les Misérables is a piece of technical brilliance. How unfortunate that the version won’t be around for much longer.
Les Misérables is now playing at the Queen’s Theatre until 13 July.