Book/Lyrics: Alain Boublil
Book/Music: Claude-Michel Schonberg
Lyrics: Herbert Kretzmer
Director: Laurence Connor
Currently in the midst of its first UK tour in a decade, producer extraordinaire Cameron Mackintosh revives the 25th Anniversary production of Boublil and Schonberg’s epic musical masterpiece Les Misérables.
Under the direction of Laurence Connor who has also helmed the new productions of Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon, the musical undergoes a transformation that makes the show feel fresh and exciting. Gone is the revolve, which for purists of the show is the backbone of the original staging, but in its place is a breathtaking set design by Matt Kinley which evokes a claustrophobic sense of foreboding especially when lit by the cutting and atmospheric lighting designed by Paule Constable.
We also see an introduction of watercolours painted by Victor Hugo himself which add a splash of colour and incredible depth to the stage. The paintings aren’t the only place colour has been added, for this production new costumes were designed by Andreane Neofitou and Christine Rowland, which lifts the show from the grey and brown pallets of the original to a more vibrant and realistic use of colour. Under the musical direction of Ben Atkinson, the 14 piece orchestra sounds rich and full, which is also down to the sparkling new orchestrations by Stephen Metcalfe, hear every note is strong and crystal clear.
A production isn’t just held together by its creative team, but also by the strength of its current cast, and by all accounts the current UK tour is one of the strongest the musical has ever seen – some feat considering the names of past Les Mis Alumni. Lead by the phenomenal performance of Killian Donnelly as convict on the run Jean Valjean. Donnelly brings a freshness to the role and makes the role totally his own, his prashing and vocal prowess nothing short of sublime. Just as powerful is the performance of conflicted officer of the law Javert, played with an overbearing presence by Nic Greenshields. Strong support also comes from Sophie-Louise Dann and Martin Ball as the Thénadiers.
1000s of hopefuls queued up for hours when the production announced its open calls to find its young leads and ensemble so it is brilliant to see Harry Apps the role of Marius – his performance so strong and confident that it’s surprising that this is his first professional production. As his love interest, Bronwen Hanson makes a splendid Cosette, her characterisation more characterful and rounded than previous performers in the role.
As pieces of musical theatre go, this production of Les Misérables is as close to musical theatre perfection as you can get and with this version taking over at The Queens Theatre in London’s west end after the theatre’s refurbishment, it’s a pretty good bet that the show will run easily for another 30 years bringing with it many more new fans for generations to come.
Runs in Manchester until 30 March 2019 and continues to tour | Image: Contributed