Les Misérables – 25th-Anniversary Production

Les Misérables
The 25th-anniversary production of the musical based on the novel by Victor Hugo, with music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, original French text by Alain Boublil & Jean-Marc Natel, additional material by James Fenton

Jean Valjean – John Owen-Jones
Javert – Earl Carpenter
Bishop of Digne / Lesgles – David Lawrence
Factory Foreman – Jonathan Alden
Fantine – Madalena Alberto
Factory Girl / Whore – Laura Tebbutt
Whores – Victoria Farley, Rhiannon Sarah Porter, Rosa O’Reilly, Leigh Rhianon Coggins & Vanessa Leagh Hicks
Old Crone – Beth Davies
Crone – Julie Stark
Bamatabois / Claquesous – Carl Mullaney
Little Cosette – Sophie Downham & Doreen White
Madame Thénardier – Lynne Wilmot
Young Éponine – Lauren Dawes / Shakira Riddle Moarles / Charlotte Statham
Thénardier – Ashley Artus
Gavroche – Max Griesbach / Robert Madge / Toby Prynne
Éponine – Rosalind James
Cosette – Katie Hall
Montparnasse – Luke Kempner
Babet – Ian Caddick
Brujon – Jonathan Alden
Enjolras – Jon Robyns
Marius – Gareth Gates
Combeferre – David Covey
Feuilly – Owain Williams
Courfeyrac – Christopher Jacobsen
Joly – Rhidian Marc
Grantaire – Adam Linstead
Jean Prouvaire – Jamke Muscato
Swings – Joanna Loxton, Gemma O’Duffy, Michael Baxter, Peter Manchester & Leighton Rafferty

Lawrence Conner & James Powell – Directors
Trevor Nunn & John Caird – Adaptation & Direction of original production
Christopher Key – Resident Director
John Cameron – Original Orchestrations
Chris Jahnke, Stephen Metcalfe & Stephen Brooker – New & Additional Orchestrations
Peter White – Musical Direction
Nick Finlow – Musical Supervisor
Michael Ashcroft – Musical Staging
Matt Kinley – Set Designs, inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo
Andreane Neofitou – Costume Designs
Christine Rowland – Additional Costumes
Nic Gray – Head of Sound
Mick Potter – Sound Design
Paule Constable – Lighting Design

Reviewed by: Michael Darvell

Reviewed: 23 September, 2010
Venue: Barbican Theatre, London

The new production of “Les Misérables” is to mark the twenty-five years since it first appeared at the Barbican Theatre. It had started life, like “Jesus Christ Superstar”, as a concept album in 1980 and was then staged in Paris for three months. Two years later impresario Cameron Mackintosh was sent the album and asked to stage a London production. It took several years to develop the show in conjunction with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Trevor Nunn, John Caird and the team responsible for the great theatrical success of “Nicholas Nickleby”. “Les Misérables” finally opened at the Barbican in October 1985 for an eight-week season. It received short shrift from most of critics, although a few including Sheridan Morley liked it. Word of mouth from audiences, however, improved the bookings and eventually the Barbican had a sell-out on its hands. A West End transfer was arranged immediately and “Les Misérables” took over the Palace Theatre for the next twenty years. It then transferred to the Queens Theatre where it is still playing, the longest-running musical in the world.

“Les Misérables” has now played in thousands of productions all over the world. It was on Broadway from 1987 to 2003 and was then revived in 2006. It has toured the UK and had three US tours. The latest production also achieves another new record. Has there ever been two productions of the same show in London at the same time? No, and when this 25th-anniversary touring production closes at the Barbican on 2 October, there will be a third, for it then joins the cast of the current London production at the Queens Theatre and members of the original 1985 London production for two spectacular performances at the O2 Arena on the following day. After that the new production is scheduled to open in Spain, the US, Australia, Canada, South America, Japan, Korea and South Africa. Who would have thought that, twenty-five years on, “Les Mis” would still be here, in London and in three different stagings at the same time. Not even Mackintosh would have made a bet on the show’s incredible longevity.

“Les Mis” is critic-proof for it is audiences that have championed a musical based on a popular book about the nineteenth-century poor of France that still resonates and speaks volumes for the worldwide poverty that remains with us. Victor Hugo was a timeless writer and, even though in adapting the book for the stage his work has been simplified, there is still enough of its message left. The book has been adapted in full or in part in over fifty films, television series and even animated versions. It is a work that touches the world’s heart, so there is no reason why it shouldn’t continue to play for another quarter-century or more.

Personally speaking, I find it hard to take. It’s a noisy show with too much portentous or bombastic music in which everybody vies to see how loud or how high they can sing. But it also has moments of great passion, sentiment and excitement in a tale of workers fighting poverty, women selling themselves to live, and students rebelling against authority. The individual stories of former thief Jean Valjean, his adopted daughter Fantine, her daughter Cosette and her lover, student Marius are all interwoven into a story of national disquiet and revolution. There are some iconic moments: ‘I Dreamed a Dream’, ‘Come to Me’, ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’, ‘In My Life’, ‘One Day More’ and ‘Bring Him Home’. My favourite is ‘Master of the House’, a jolly knees-up song by the Thénardiers that threatens to resemble Victor Hugo meets Lionel Bart.

Throughout all the sound and fury, however, there are some notable and charismatic performances. John Owen-Jones is a rock-steady Jean Valjean, the former prisoner who changes his life for the good; Earl Carpenter is his nemesis Javert, the police inspector who, “Fugitive”-like, is obsessed with tracking down and punishing Valjean. Jon Robyns as Enjolras, leader of the rebelling students, gives a rip-roaring performance on the barricades; Gareth Gates, runner-up in ITV’s “Pop Idol”, delivers a restrained account of Marius and is all the better for it. Madalena Alberto as Fantine gives an affecting performance of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ and Rosalind James as Eponine and Katie Hall as Cosette also impress. As the appalling inn-keeping Thénardiers Ashley Artus and Lynne Wilmot provide a certain black-comic relief.The production has designs by Matt Kinley based on the paintings of Victor Hugo that give the piece fluidity and authenticity. It’s probably twenty-five years too late to say it, but this one is going to run and run – again!

  • The 25th-anniversary production of Les Misérables is at the Barbican Theatre until Saturday 2 October
  • Tickets on 0844 243 0791
  • Les Misérables is at the O2 Arena on Sunday 3 October at 1.30 p.m. & 7 p.m.
  • Tickets on 0844 856 0202
  • The West End production continues forever and a day at the Queens Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1
  • Tickets on 0844 482 5161
  • Barbican
  • The O2
  • Les Mis

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