Let me start off by saying that, recently, I have reviewed Les Misérables TO DEATH! Ha!
This will be my last Miz for quite some time!
I’ve just come back from seeing Les Misérables at the Queens Theatre, London and have once again had a thoroughly amazing evening, made all the more poignant because this is the penultimate show that I’ll get to see before I depart the West End for a bit! (the final curtain call, will be The Phantom of the Opera on this – Tuesday – evening).
The casting team for this show are currently famed for their three-month contracts, which currently includes Phantom-extrordinare, and current West End ‘IT MAN!’, Ramin Karimloo, as Jean Valjean (and who unfortunately does not play on a Monday or a Thursday evening); thus this review is unable to comment on the interesting though historically traditional transition that he’s made over to this other West End stalwart, nor comment on how well he takes on this monumental role.
However, Les Misérables is definitely not a one man show, and for me, I really value to get to see the understudy, as you tend to get someone without the gimmicks or biased pulling power, thus it makes it so much easier to review the performance, as you’ve got no preconceptions, and you tend to get blown away! 🙂 Plus, in an era of such short contracts, it also affords some longevity to this review, in addition to hopefully reassuring that subset of people who oft tend to be a little hard-to-warm to the concept of seeing an understudy.
Incidentally, I also think that the character of Javert is definitely the more interesting of the two principal adult male roles, but that’s by the by, and for another day! 😛
So, Monday 23rd January, and the overall performance was, as ever, FANTASTIC!
We had a rather large number of understudies on owing to Principal cast holiday/performance schedules, including Christopher Jacobsen as Jean Valjean, Zoe Doano as Cossette, and the (incredible) Shaun Dalton as Inspector Javert.
I’ll start with the good, and say that Shaun Dalton as Javert was perfect, in my opinion. It’s the one role that I look at closely in this musical, and I found Dalton to be note perfect, incredibly commanding on stage, and a real force to be reckoned with. My plumed 19th Century Inspectors hat comes off to him, and I’d love to see him in a more Principal role come the next cast change.
I was very pleased that Alexia Khadime was in tonight’s performance, as her Eponine is absolutely gorgeous, and always a pleasure to watch. I’ve also warmed a lot more to Craig Mather’s Marius, and Katy Secombe was fantastic as ever in the role of Mme Thénardier. It was my first time seeing Cameron Blakeley as Thénardier, and I thought he did a great job in the role, making it distinct from the great shaping that I felt Matt Lucas brought and added to the role immediately prior.
Christopher Jacobsen took a little while to grow on me as a plausible Valjean, and I was initially a little worried… certainly during the opening numbers, and right up until At The End Of The Day, I felt that his voice lacked the operatic depth that I’ve perhaps become spoilt and used to with previous Valjeans. Having today learnt that he is a meer 23 years old (@tobiased makes a good point in that Valjean is never this young at any point in the entire story); I feel that this explains a lot. However, the ‘older’ Valjean got, the more I found that I became comfortable with Jacobsen’s performance, with his voice becoming more resonant, and, ultimately, I think that you end up with a passable, though not authentic, Jean Valjean. Credit where due, some of the songs were sung with great emotional depth and absolutely pitch perfect. I probably wouldn’t shy away from a Monday/Thursday performance to deliberately avoid his Valjean, were you not too fixed on definitely seeing Ramin Karimloo.
It was my first time seeing Liam Tamne in the role of Enjolras, and I have to say, as I’d expected, I wasn’t keen. On all my previous visits to the show over the last 9 months or so (and there have been quite a few!), I’ve always had Scott Garnham, and I do much prefer him in this role, if I am honest. Similarly, I still haven’t warmed to Caroline Sheen as Fantine, though, as ever, it is worth noting that the audience are usually receptive to her, and perhaps it’s just that she’s not right for my own vision of Fantine.
Overall, and it’s made harder to judge with so many understudies on this evening, I feel that the cast is fairly strong, though definitely not as strong as when it had its full June 2011 complement, and underwent the mini-re-invention.
Technically, the show was great, and I was very fortunate enough to have had a private tour of the stage a few months back, and so it was great to watch the production with more ‘technical’ eyes. The orchestra sounded brilliant, and the surround sound which was recently installed back in 2011 also did a great job during the first barricade battle scene – even when we were right at the back of the Dress Circle you felt in the thick of it! 🙂
As ALWAYS, I ended up having a bit of a blub at the end, it’s just such a fantastic show, story and score, and coupled with a great cast, and thus I had a really fab time.
Les Misérables is currently at the Queens Theatre, and running pretty much until forever! If you would like any more information on the show, please visit their official website!