Les Miserables at The Queen’s Theatre
Since December 2009, to celebrate 25 very successful years of the musical LES MISERABLES, there has been a tour which started in Cardiff, and then moved all around the country, and then onto Paris, and finished up at the Barbican Theatre in October 2010.
I was fortunate to see this amazing production, and I enjoyed it so much, I decided to go to the West end production, which is currently running at the Queen’s Theatre. This musical is famed for its emotional storyline, which encompasses, poverty, corruption and tragedy, but there is also humour, mainly provided by the Thenardiers, the corrupt inn keeper and his wife.
Here is a brief description of the plot
Jean Valjean is a man who is very bitter , having stolen a loaf of bread to stop his family from starving, and then having to spend 19 years in prison, only to find when he comes out, that no-one will give him a job or a chance in life.
The story of how he becomes a reformed man after a priest he has stolen from forgives him, is both poignant and touching. His adoption of Cosette, the litle child whose mother dies is proof of his good character. But he never knows any peace, as Javert, the stern and unbending policeman relentlessly pursues him for years because he broke his parole.
All this takes place whilst there is an uprising of the students ,and a war, which claims many lives. But the only peace of mind that Jean Valjean needs is to know that his beloved Cosette is in safe hands, and after she has married Marius, he dies peacefully.
This is my opinion for what it’s worth
Having already seen the touring version, I have to say that no-one can quite match John Owen Jones as Jean Valjean, nor the bawdiness of Mme Thenardier, which Lyn Wimot portrayed so vividly on the Tour.
There is a revolving stage, which I preferred to the touring version. The death scene of Fantine is very emotional, especially when she tries to crawl out of her bed and along the floor, and is tenderly lifted up and taken back by Jean Valjean.
The scene at the barricade where the cheeky young urchin is killed whilst he is still shouting his defiance to the enemy is absolutely heartrending, as is the scene between Marius and Eponine, when she dies in his arms after being shot. Her unrequited love is there for all to see, and their duet of A LITTLE FALL OF RAIN is both tender and emotional, as she slips away from life.
The suicide scene for Javert on the bridge didn’t really seem to work, as he slipped
unobtrusively off the edge, whereas on the tour, we were shown the water swirling up and swallowing him, and it gave a much deeper impact.
But all in all, this production is still very good. The rendition of BRING HIM HOME from Jean Valjean is so moving, as is ON MY OWN from Eponine. But the most poignant song of all for me was sung by Marius, EMPTY CHAIRS AT EMPTY TABLES where this wounded student staggers across the stage, yearning for his deceased friends, oblivious of his own wounds, with pain and misery etched into his face. Gareth Gates has played Marius in both productions,, and I enjoyed both performances equally from him.
The whole story is so believable, you come out of the theatre feeling you have seen something truly remarkable and powerful, and the memory will stay in your mind for a long time to come.
I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who has not yet seen it.