LES MISERABLES - 23 MARCH 2002

Having seen the show in October and having since heard much on the current cast I decided to make another visit and what a worthwhile visit it was. The cast uniformly gave excellent performances and the only thing to spoil the whole thing was the audience including the two latecomers next to me !!!

From the last visit the cast still included Michael McCarthy (Javert), Jody Crosier (Marius), Mandy Holliday (Madame Thenardier) and Jason McCann (Enjolras).

Michael is still one of my favourite Javert’s and he has such stage presence and a voice which fills the theatre. His portrayal of Javert’s mental downfall is played completely right so that his suicide is very believable.

Jody Crosier is increasingly becoming one of my favourite Marius’s. He has brought a depth of character to the role which can easily be missing in Marius. His interpretation fits in with my idea of how the character should be and in my opinion matches with Victor Hugos’ description ‘ It is a mistake to suppose that the state of being in love ……. makes a man perfect ………. It simply makes him forgetful. If he forgets to be evil, he also forgets to be good’ That is Jody’s Marius.

I liked Jason Mccann’s performance more this time and felt he has latched on to more of the passion and feeling behind Enjolras but I still find him vocally lacking for the power of Enjolras’s battle cries.

Chris Fennessy was Jean Valjean and he was very good. He had some nice touches to Valjean character. He sang well and was a worthy opponent to Javert. He built up a good relationship with Fantine and added small gestures such as touching her face during ‘Come’ to Me. For me it is always important that the connection is established between them during that song as to make the epilogue work, in that you know there is more than just Fantine’s gratefulness in her coming to fetch him.

At last a Fantine worthy of the show !! Carmen Cusack brings back a Fantine with life and character and someone you can have sympathy for as she falls into the depths of despair. She has a very strong voice and I Dreamed a Dream was excellent and heart felt. One particular thing I liked was in the Epilogue, as Fantine began her final words of ‘Come with me where chains will never bind you’ she leaned over Valjean and placed both her hands on his chest, he then shuddered a couple of times, as death final came to him, and she removed the shawl from around his shoulders. With the placing of the hands it is as though she takes him to heaven instead of waiting for him to die before she holds out her hand to him.

Caroline Sheen is an Eponine who does not ask for your pity as she accepts that this is her life and I don’t suppose given the option she would change much of what is familiar to her. She comes across as very much a best friend to Marius and has lovely facial expressions and gestures to bring the character over. Her voice has a uniqueness to it in that as opposed to Cosette’s clear voice hers is more earthy and harsh which fits Eponine’s character. She and Jody worked very well together creating a believable friendship and as she dies in his arms it is not with remorse as for her final moments she has her final wish.

Stephen Tate and Mandy Holliday are the formidable Thenardiers and have just enough of the larger than life but not OTT. Master of the House always lulls the audience into the idea that they are loveable rogues but once you get to Paris it has to be established that these are ruthless people and Stephen Tate’s Thenardier certainly does that with his flick knife being turned on family and gang members.

Sarah Lane was a very sweet Cosette and created a good character to Cosette’s innocent dilemmas. Cosette’s later meetings with both Eponine and Thenardier (at her wedding) bring back many unhappy and confusing memories for her.

The success of a performance rests not just on the principals but on the ensemble who between them play many parts, changing with in a few minutes seconds from one to another, creating the society and background for the story. Fantastic principals supported by a poor ensemble can bring a whole performance down but a strong ensemble can lift it even more. I always watch the ensemble work in any show and this current Les Miz ensemble certainly produce the goods. One particularly person I have always noticed over my past few visits is Phil Snowden who one minute is the brutish Brujon and then the next a well dressed smart student. It’s those extremes of character portrayal, which are both carried off so well, which make the characters and situations believable. One particular scene I notice this is the ‘Red & Black’ as the conversations and discussions of the students within the café are so realistic that you don’t notice them as the scene looks natural.

So another successful visit, the last of the teens, and I can’t wait until the 20th one !!

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