Theatre Reviews

Les Miserables: Moving, powerful and visually stunning

To say I was excited to see Les Miserables on the West End was an understatement, I had been dying to see it for years and it did not fail to disappoint.

Director and writer: Trevor Nunn and John Card

Producer: Cameron Mackintosh

Author: Victor Hugo

Starring: Adam Bayjou, Shaq Taylor, Charlotte Kennedy, Alice Ellen Wright, Emma Baar

Running Time: 3 hours

Theatre: Queen’s Theatre, London

It’s no surprise that Les Miserables is a sell-out show each night simply because of the powerful and emotional performances of the cast and crew.

After 19 years as a prisoner, Jean Valjean (Adam Bayjou) is freed by Javert (Shaq Taylor), the officer in charge of the prison workforce.

Valjean promptly breaks parole but later uses money from stolen silver to reinvent himself as a mayor and factory owner.

Javert vows to bring Valjean back to prison. Eight years later, Valjean becomes the guardian of a child named Cosette (Charlotte Kennedy) after her mother, Fantine’s (Emma Baar), death, but Javert’s relentless pursuit means that peace will be a long time coming.

As soon as the overture began, I immediately had goosebumps all over my body as I anticipated the characters to come on stage.

As the show covers various years in the life of Valjean, I was curious to see how the musical would show the time lapse but creatively it uses a projection screen informing the audience of the date and location of the next scene.

Plus characters like Valjean, Javert, Eponine (Alice Ellen Wright) and Cosette all “physically” grew up which helped show the time lapse.

Having seen the film adaptation before the stage show, I knew the story well and knew what happens to the characters but nevertheless I still found myself becoming emotionally attached to the likes of Fantine, Eponine and Marius (Paul Wilkins).

Although in the movie adaptation, I find myself bored of the characters such as Valjean and Javert but watching the show, I was truly captivated by their performances.

Bayjou’s portrayed the ex-convict brilliantly and his powerful rendition of Bring Him Home left me with tears falling down from my face.

He has clear mastered the moving song and I know I wasn’t the only one in the audience who found themselves crying at multiple times throughout the production.

Using just a simple, rotating stage set design, the show is extremely creative in all aspects.

The way the barricade is built is truly fascinating and creatively simplistic and you could tell straight away the show was a Cameron Mackintosh production.

The final battle between the revolutionaries and the French army was done incredibly well. Although you do not see any of the French army, the way the production is done makes you feel like you are there.

With the rotating stage, you sometimes feel like you are behind the barricade with the students but there are times when it feels like you’re one of the French soldiers fighting against the revolutionaries.

Mackintosh must be proud of the production and as said, there is an obvious reason why the show is so popular – obviously the film adaptation helped – but without seeing the film first, you will still be captivated by the extremely powerful voices and moving story that the show has.

The stage musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel is something that needs to be seen by any musical theatre fan and is one of the most memorable performances to date.

2 replies on “Les Miserables: Moving, powerful and visually stunning”

I have no idea what it felt like seeing Les Mis in the West End. That was summer of 2015: seeing Les Mis in the West End was a dream of mine. My church choir was asked to be in residence at Bristol Cathedral for the summer. Part of the trip consisted of 2 1/2 days in London. So my family went up two days early to get more out of London. My mom took me to see Les Mis and I just have no words to describe how much that meant to me. Adam Bayjou was my Valjean at the time and I am glad I had him because he was so good as Valjean along with the other actors.

Then in 2017, Les Mis started to tour the United States, the country I live. I saw it at Peace Center in Greenville with my school. I knew it had a lot to live up to since I saw it at the West End previously. It was the 25th anniversary production and the staging may have been different from the West End staging, but it worked. There was a lot more color in the set and it went from scene to scene so smoothly. Just like the West End cast, they were so powerful. I even had an understudy for Eponine, which was a bit ironic because in the West End, I had an understudy. Both productions worked for Les Mis. I am still not sick and tired of Les Mis.

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