If anyone knows me well enough, then they know that one thing I can never say no to is a good old musical. Since I was a young child I was brought up watching classic musical films such as Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Oliver, to name a few. Some people say the things you watch when you are young are all just part of a phase and that you “grow out of it”; well in this case I guess I never started growing. I have seen quite a few musicals live on stage, however one of my biggest regrets had always been the fact that I had never seen the grand epic that is Les Misérables live in front of me. My only exposure to Les Mis, up until now, had been watching clips of the original West End production and the 2012 film directed by Tom Hooper. Well, I am very delighted to say that I have finally rectified that problem. On December 29th I attended a performance of Les Mis live from the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin, and as this was my very first time seeing such an iconic show live I wanted to share some of my thoughts.
Something that I want to make very clear straight off is just how overwhelmed and shocked I was at the sheer scale of the show. I had of course come to realize that Les Mis is of the “grand scale” epic style of musical, from watching the clips online and from Tom Hooper’s film rendition. However even being aware of this fact still didn’t stop me from being completely immersed and mesmerized by this production, which is a mark of a very good show indeed. Cameron Mackintosh has delivered a very extravagant show with beautifully detailed backgrounds that really helped to set the tone of the performance. My favourite set in particular was the large scale barricade used in the climactic battle scene and completely defied what I even expected.
Of course all the best production and stage design in the world is nothing if you don’t have a solid cast to tie it all together. Well I am very happy to say that the cast delivered 150 percent and then some. First off was Killian Donnelly’s Jean Valjean, can I say what an honour it was to see a homegrown West End legend practising his art, as it really was a once in a lifetime experience. Donnelly delivered a very heartfelt performance as Valjean matching sheer intensity with vulnerability. Donnelly’s interactions with young Cosette in particular made for very poignant and heartwarming moments. I would actually go as far as to say that I thought Donnelly did a far better job at bringing Valjean to life than Hugh Jackman did, and that means a lot when I’m rating someone over Wolverine himself.
Of course Valjean isn’t the only character in the show, I have to say that everyone else in the show delivered just as powerful a performance as Killian Donnelly did. In particular I thought Nic Greenshield’s turn as Javert was excellent, delivering a very menacing yet charming performance that had the audience both cursing him and cheering for him throughout the entire film. Martin Ball and Sophie-Louise Dann quickly became audience favourites as the vile Thenardier couple, delivering hilarious hijinks that had the whole house screaming in laughter. However in my opinion the best performance in the show had to be Tegan Bannister as Eponine, an often forgotten character in my opinion, whose tragic tale of unrequited love has always touched a place in my heart. Bannister delivers a heartbreaking performance coupled very well by the strong chemistry between Henry Apps as Marius and Bronwen Anderson as the adult Cosette.
Finally, I can’t give my thoughts on a musical and not at least mention the music. I feel it is important to state that the music of Les Mis has always held a strong place in my heart. When I first went for vocal coaching when I was younger the first song I was ever trained to sing was Empty Chairs at Empty Tables along with Stars, two of the biggest show stoppers. Naturally, I hold that music in very high regard so I was quite anxious about whether or not they would deliver, as in my opinion the film adaptation’s biggest failure was in this department. However, I am very happy to say that there wasn’t a dull moment. My favourite song in this performance had to be One Day More, which was perfect in scale and intensity, making for a strong closing number to the first act and had me walking out of the theatre buzzing.
To close off the review I was extremely impressed with what was delivered here. Cameron Mackintosh and his cast and crew have delivered an exciting and excellent piece of musical theatre and I for one am very glad that I got to experience it. I cannot wait to see what comes to our shores next.