Les Miserables - Queen’s Theatre – 22 May 2004

The character of the Palace Theatre is something which cannot be replaced but the addition to the staging of the show when it transferred to the Queen’s Theatre has certainly captured the intimacy of this show and brings the audience and performers closer together. The entrances at the side of the stage made to look like the sewers proved to be effective entrances / exits and hiding places. The stage is narrower than the Palace theatre is and this made songs such as ‘Master of the House’ more crowded and intense. The ensemble feel of the piece is still very apparent and credit must go to the whole company for creating realistic characters throughout all the crowd scenes whether it be the occupants of the inn, the beggars of Paris, the students at the barricade or bystanders as Fantine is arrested. The whole cast gave impassioned performances to create that uplifting feeling this show leaves you with.

Ian Pirie’s Valjean is a gentle spirit who’s soft voice hides behind the man who’s passion and anger rises in his Soliloquy and Bring Him Home. His Bring Him Home was absolutely beautiful, perfectly controlled moving from the sound of a prayer to an impassioned ‘let him live’ to the haunting final note. Michael McCarthy was in strong voice as Javert and Stars was exceptionally powerful and the confrontations both after Fantines’ death and as Valjean came of the sewers really brought out the power in the two men. The first prolonged look at each other as Valjean came to the barricade said more than any words could. Valjean’s temptation that this could be the end is overtaken by the good man inherent in him. In One Day More as he packs away his things he lingers that few moment s more on the candlesticks forever conscious of his indebtedness to the Bishop of Digne.

Joanna Ampil seems to continually grow in the role of Fantine and gives a passionate performance of Fantine’s gradually but complete downfall as life lets her down. ‘I dreamed a Dream’ is a lovely contrast of loss of hope, unreachable dreams and acceptance of reality

Jon Lee remains an excellent Marius with many touching aspects to his performance. ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’ moved from the sorrowful to anger at the waste of live and his anger continued in the scene with Cosette for when she went to take his hands on ‘don’t think about it Marius’ he withdrew them as if to say ‘no I won’t forget’ ‘A Little Fall of Rain’ is beautifully played, his reactions and interaction with Eponine during and after truly show a man heartbroken by the death of his friend.

Lauren James was very good as Eponine, she started On My Own showing Eponine’s frustration at where life has led her to and again the contrast of anger and the final unapologetic ‘I love him’ seemingly answering the questions of why she will return to the barricade. I didn’t feel her interpretation was as individual as it could be and whilst she worked well with Jon Lee as Marius her own stamp on the characterisation would have just enhanced the performance

I would have the same comment about Gillian Budd. A very good Cosette, sang and performed well and the ‘Every Day’ and Finale scene were played very nicely but some of the innocence of Cosette wasn’t there

Oliver Thornton creates a striking image as Enjolras and contains the passion and leadership qualities of the character but his voice just doesn’t have the power to lift over the music and other voices which is what is needed especially on the rousing cries of ‘they will come when we call’

Stephen Tate is just fab as Thenardier, he has the right combination of roguish charm and continuing ruthlessness to achieve what he wants, by whatever means. A man with absolutely no morals. During the Attack on the Rue Plumet Brujon punches Claquesous and then Thenardier punches Brujon – a hierarchy amongst thieves.

The joy of seeing a performance several times is that you can allow yourself the luxury of watching what else is going on onstage and not always the person who is singing and conversations, characterisations and interactions going on - as a continuation from the travellers falling out of a girl in Master of House the second traveller than finds himself being mocked and teased by the men at the table he moved to.

Lighting and smoke creates so many vivid images of the sewers, hot days at the jail, ghosts and the nameless beggars in At the end of the day – the simpliest idea being the most effective

Again another excellent performance, each visit is like a box of chocolates after you have had one you just think ‘well another one won’t do any harm! ’

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