Newcastle Theatre Royal 23/08/2019
Les Misérables is a timeless classic. A show seen by over 70 million people all over the world since its debut in London 34 years ago cannot be denied the legendary status it has. The Victor Hugo novel released in 1862 has been adapted by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg for the stage. This touring production is the “new production” that has split the opinion of fans with the removal of the iconic revolving stageamongst other slight changes in the show.
The story depicts the life of ex-convict Jean Valjean (played by Killian Donnelly) who has broken his parole in 1815 and on is the run from the law. A life-time pursuit from Inspector Javert (played by Nic Greenshields) sees Valjean changing locations and identities as the show progresses. This storyline parallels the French Revolution, where Marius (played by Shane O’Riordan) falls for the adopted daughter of Valjean, Cosette (played by Bronwen Hanson). Amidst the Revolution are lust, love and loss; a perfect combination for arguably the most emotional musical ever made.
The show was nothing short of perfection. Killian Donnelly’s Valjean had the audience feeling every emotion of the character, from the guilt of betraying the priest to the compassion and love he had for Fantine (played by Katie Hall) and Cosette, the acting was phenomenal. Donnelly’s voice is perfect for Valjean, showcased by his beautiful rendition of ‘Bring Him Home’ which felt like a true desperate plea to God to save Marius.
Nic Greenshields was born for the role of Javert. His towering figure and resonant voice struck fear in the other characters and his performance of ‘Stars’ rightfully received the longest solo applause of the evening.
Comedy is provided by Monsieur and Madame Thénardier (played by Martin Ball and Sophie-Louise Dann) who’s ‘Master of the House’ was another highlight. The staging of this number was hilarious with so much corruption and con-tricks carried out by the Thénardiers throughout; it was a pleasure to watch. Both Dann and Ball were fantastic in their roles and the presence they created on stage oozed pure malice and greed.
This is a show that relies on the ensemble performances to create each scene. The characters and voices of the entire cast were so defined and exquisite; group numbers such as ‘One Day More’ made the audience erupt into applause.
Alterations made for the new production were a success. This performance proved that Les Misérables does not need a revolving stage; direction of the barricade scenes made a truly heartbreaking and harrowing watch. The artwork (inspired by Victor Hugo’s drawings) used for the projection onto the backdrop was beautiful; the projection however could’ve been utilised to show the dates or locations to keep the audience informed on the story, the narrative is fast paced and could be lost by those who aren’t familiar with the show. It came into perfect use in ‘Javert’s Soliloquy’, staging the scene far better than the original production. The set design was meticulous to capture the streets of revolutionary Paris, complimented by the use of dim lighting which manifested the pathos of the show.
Les Misérables is a triumph. It will have you on the edge of your seat, in fits of laughter and in tears. This show defines musical theatre and how it should be done.