LES MISERABLES - 17 MARCH 2001

The short Les Miz is here, well perhaps I mean shorter as I don't think Les Miz could ever be classified as short !!! Although I noticed all the cuts I did not find any of them overly disconcerting. I will always love the full version but the changes have not affected the heart of the show. When anything you are intimately familiar with changes, the changes can seem strange at first but after a few more visits I am sure I will be converted !! The only cut I would like to restore now is 'Come to Me' as I think the full version is better

Hans-Peter Janssens was a good Valjean, although his character was not my style of interpretation of the role as I found he character too clipped / harsh for Valjean. He has a very expressive face and some times this made his actions seem lightly exaggerated.

After several visits with good 'character' Javerts at last I have one which is not only a great characterisation but a wonderful deep voice to go with it, yes Michael McCarthy is back and don't we know it. He was fabulous, bringing over the character of Javert so strongly and his performance was filled with many gestures which rounded the character even more. He has such a commanding presence and his whole performance created the build up to his suicide very believably

Grania Renihan has returned once more to Fantine but I feel that perhaps her time of playing Fantine should have come to an end. She plays the part well although I did find her a little harsh. She portrays the downfall of Fantine in a believable manner and for 'Come to Me' when she turned in a beautiful rendition of the song both musically and acting. I just felt she hadn't the spark of some of her fellow performers.

Joanna Ampil and Niklas Andersson again created wonderful chemistry as Eponine and Marius. The friendship between the characters was very realistic and you felt as though there was a long history between them. Joanna adds some lovely gestures to Eponine as she holds on to every moment with Marius even when he inadvertently breaks her heart. Niklas aslo adds additional gestures and his seemingly spontaneous hugging of Eponine on at least two occasions matches very well with the Marius in the novel where his excitement both includes and excludes Eponine from his life. I also liked the way how after Eponine's death he sits lost in his own world as the battle continues around him.

Philippa Healey was a very good Cosette managing to convey her innocent and sweet character to the audience. She and Niklas created a nice chemistry as the young lovers.

Mandy Holliday is a formidable Madame Thenardier bringing her wonderful, slightly larger than life character, to the stage. Tony Timberlake was a very good Thenardier although he had a strong partner in Mandy who perhaps lead the duos scenes more. I thought their additional comments / gestures in the Thenardier Waltz were excellent.

Tam Mutu's Enjolras is a striking leader and although his voice, while excellent, does not perhaps have the power of previous Enjolras' I have seen he created a strong believable character

Special mention must go to Little Cosette and Gavroche. Little Cosette had a lovely voice and Gavroche created a very confident, chirpy Gavroche. This seemed to be their first performance along with Little Eponine as at the curtain calls they were presented with flowers and the children were pushed to the front by the company. I wish the London production would say who was playing the children each night !

The change to the staging of the finale is something I have yet to settle with. The question is whether this is Hans' way of playing the role or a new staging ? His Valjean dies at the end of 'Your mother gave her life foryou and gave you to my keeping', as Fantine removes his shawl and on his lines 'forgive me all my trespasses and take me to your glory' he gets up from his chair with the vigour and life of a young man. If I had to choose I prefer the previous staging where Fantine kneels in front of him and takes his hand before Cosette arrives, I don't dislike the new way but the old one seemed to connect Fantine and Valjean more.

So another strong performance of Les Miserables, perhaps a couple of the main performers don't have the spark of their predecessors but overall the London company is still excellent from the principals to the marvellous ensemble.

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