Capitol Theatre, Haymarket
Season: 26 March - 12 July 2015
I sure could hear the people sing at the Capitol Theatre last night – both the sensational cast of Les Misérables on stage, as well as the audience singing their praises in applause. Produced by Cameron Mackintosh and directed by James Powell and Laurence Connor, this rousing musical classic is a must-see that you will remember for years to come.
The prologue commenced at a rapid pace, which did not relinquish right to the very end of the production. Jean Valjean, played by Simon Gleeson, sustained a tremendous energy throughout the production. This was achieved through his sublime voice, fully exhibiting his magnificent range and the drastic character transformation of Valjean, from the beginning to the end of the story. Continually at odds with Javert, played by Hayden Tee, the production grapples with themes of mercy and redemption in the face of cruel condemnation, epitomised in the iconic number 24601. My favourite part of Les Misérables is the great lengths Fantine goes to, in desperation to protect Cosette. This part of the production exuded the agonising emotion that Fantine, played by Patrice Tipoki, endures and the abhorrent exploitative behaviour by those around her. I was certainly not left disappointed.
This production deals with the dark subject matter astutely, breaking up the heart-wrenching scenes depicting desperation, loss and grief with clever comic-relief. Monsieur and Madame Thénardier, played by Trevor Ashley and Lara Mulcahy, are a delightful pair and were adored by the audience. A little self-deprecating and lurid humour didn’t go astray as they wielded a double-edged sword, allowing the audience to fall for them, and yet simultaneously despise their cruelty to the sweet Cosette.
Throughout the season, four young actors will play young Cosette, with the same system employed for young Gavroche, which is frequently used when child actors are necessary. I was astounded by the strength of performance projected by the two actors who I saw perform. They managed to carry their roles with the same strength as any of the other fully trained and experienced performers, refusing to be outshone. Gavroche was delightfully mischievous and afforded the audience great amusement, as his efficacy often outdid his older counterparts.
For those aching for the love story, Emily Langridge and Euan Doidge played Cosette and Marius’ love for each other superbly. This relationship was enhanced by Kerrie Anne Greenland’s devastating depiction of Eponine’s unrequited love for Marius and the sacrifices she made for him. Each of these performers displayed their exquisite vocal range and ability to convey emotion largely through the voice and physicality.
Set and Image design, by Matt Kinley, created a stunning ramshackle setting for the events to play out. It complemented the performers and accommodated smooth transitions pleasing to the audience eye. Innovative incorporation of digital backdrops, inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo, created the effect of movement through the streets or the sewers whilst maintaining simple choreography. However, this technique was employed to depict Javert’s suicide, which I felt was less effective. I felt the use of slow motion made the disturbing act slightly cartoonish, which was a shame. The design of the barricade was striking, and incorporated pyrotechnic gunshots to engage the audience with great merit.
Nearing the end of the production, there was a poignant scene whereby the dead returned to the stage to collect a candle, extinguishing the flame and representing the loss of each life, leaving “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”. With the dead surrounding Valjean, goosebumps prickled on your skin as you became aware of the patriotic and loving sacrifices made by so many. Les Misérables is an emotionally fuelled musical, and this was aptly portrayed to the degree that an audience member could be heard audibly wailing throughout the final scenes. Whilst this extent of weeping was perhaps a distracting audience response in live theatre, that person was not the only one brought to tears by the powerful performance, I am sure. This is a credit to the cast and creative masterminds of the musical to evoke such a strong impassioned response in the audience.
This production of Les Misérables is not to be missed. In the words of Victor Hugo, “There is nothing like a dream to create the future.” If this production is the manifestation of creative dreams of those in the musical industry, we have an exciting future on our stages ahead of us.