LES MISERABLES - 2 AUGUST 2003, LONDON

It is always good to see a new cast settling into their roles in Les Miz. All but three of the principal cast changed with only Michael McCarthy (Javert), Stephen Tate (Thenardier) and Sophia Ravegelas (Eponine) remaining.

This was the 6th day of the cast and it was a thoroughly solid performance by all and I haven’t been engaged in a performance as much as this one for a long time (a quiet audience actually helped there)

Jeff Leyton has returned as Valjean and he has grown on me in this part since I last saw his performance. He and Michael McCarthy having worked together so much before create worthy adversaries. There was a nice chemistry with Joanna Ampil’s Fantine, his face glowing in her presence as he saw her kneeling before him moments before he dies. Michael McCarthy gives an excellent performances as Javert and his gradual decline into near insanity is credible.

Joanna Ampil is the second Eponine who has also appeared as Fantine. She sang a strong rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ and a very poignant ‘Come to Me’. The deep down degradation of Fantine is not as angst and desperate as it could be. Joanna’s Fantine is a sweet girl, who needs to get an edge.

The young trio are, probably for once, all about the right age for 18-20. Who would believe that behind the petite beautiful frame of Sophia Ravegelas would be a powerful and emotional Eponine, who’s ‘On My Own’ soared and who’s love and desperation for Marius’s love ended in an emotional but for Eponine a dream come true ‘A Little fall of rain’. Sophia captured the fragility and at the same time determination and strength of Eponine which makes her character so endearing.

Jon Lee made a very good start as Marius, creating the boyish character of Marius seeing this as a game, only to have his world shattered as Eponine dies in his arms. His emotional response to her death made the scene more poignant and effective. Jon has a good voice, light but still strong in ‘Empty chairs’.

Lydia Griffith’s is again a young Cosette, very much brimming on womanhood. She and Jon were very much the young lovers and for Lydia’s Cosette only as the outside world enters her garden does she have to grow up. The stand off between her and Eponine as they face each other after ten years is simple and silent but says a 1000 words.

Oliver Thornton again gave a good performance as Enjolras creating a leader who could instil belief in the cause. He didn’t have the arrogance and anger that Enjolras would feel and his relationship with Grantaire is not yet fully developed but it has potential to grow in time.

Stephen Tate remains an excellent Thenardier, with extra to see in his performance each time. Katy Secombe provide an worthy partner in crime as Madame Thenardier suitable devious and fawning.

The new company were full of energy and enthusiasm creating the many character but the stand outs for me were Nic Greenshields (not just because he is tall) as Brujon amongst others and Alexis James, ever distinctive, as Montparnasse. Emily Langham was a petite and very vulnerable Cosette. Graham Stothard wasn’t the strongest or most natural Gavroche but this was only week one and with confidence I am sure he will do a fine job.

Again is it the small staging elements which are noticeable:

In the opening scene, through the haze and the smoke a solider was drinking in the heat of the day immediately giving the impression of the sweltering heat these men would be working in.

Master of the house - watching the guests at the Inn and in particular the two travelers and the husband and wife are actually more interesting than what Thenardier is doing at that moment but if you didn't particularly look you wouldn't see as the conversations and actions of the company make the scene completely natural.

At the ABC Café after Marius’s line 'she was like a ghost to me, one minute there and she was gone' as Grantaire starts mocking him he carries on the conversation with another student telling him all about bumping into her.

In my life - as Marius stands next to Eponine she takes his hand only for him to rush away on 'waiting near' to the gates leaving her alone for 'waiting near' She is noticeably pleased during ‘One Day More’ as she persuades Marius to head with her to join the students and she hopes forget Cosette.

At the beginning of act 2 during the interchange between Eponine and Marius sometimes Marius hears 'little you know, little you care' and reacts as though on those words he begins to understand how Eponine feels'. On most occasions he has already gone and for Eponine from thinking he cares with ''get out before the trouble starts, get out Ponine you might get shot' as soon as he has found a use for her in delivering the letter he has gone to join the other students and her hopes are flattened once more.

As Eponine came over the barricade she saw Marius and cried 'Oh Marius' as she knows her wounds are fatal. The staging of A Little Fall of Rain is not so static as previously and Eponine moves around quite a bit positioning herself in Marius's embrace completely in control of the situation knowing Marius would not refuse her anything and for the first time in her live she would be held by loving arms.

As usual I am sure there is much that I have missed so I will just have to make a return trip !

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