MusicalReviewSouth East

Les Misérables – Theatre Royal, Norwich

Reviewer: Lu Greer

Music: Claude-Michel Schönberg

Lyrics: Herbert Kretzmer

Writers: Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel (based on the novel by Victor Hugo)

Adaptor: Trevor Nunn and John Caird

Director: James Powell and Laurence Connor

Originally conceived in 2009 to celebrate its 25th anniversary, Les Misérables has continued to sell-out audiences both on tour and in London’s West End for years. The show weaves the story of a series of interconnected lives in a city which has been ripped apart by the French Revolution of the nineteenth century. The story of Jean Valjean, convicted for stealing a loaf of bread to feed a starving family, and the view of social injustices it is used to convey feels just as poignant today, but with the show having toured for so long the question must be; can the performance stay as relevant as its content?

The answer, simply, is yes.

The sets created for this tour (Matt Kinley), inspired by Victor Hugo’s own paintings, create an atmospheric view of Napoleonic France, with the mobile frames creating wide views and claustrophobic spaces throughout. This scene of both grandeur and intimacy is built upon with the clever use of lighting (Paul Constable) and creates a whole range of emotions throughout.

Opening on Dean Chisnall as Jean Valjean, a member of a chain gang finally getting a chance at parole, we see him take the lead as a strong and compassionate character, working wonderfully as a juxtaposition to Nic Greenshields’ Javert; a complex character who’s progressively conflicting emotions are both as subtle as they are engaging. Indeed, Javert’s final scene is as visually stunning as it is unexpectedly moving.

In another branch of the story, Katie Hall’s depiction of Fantine’s fall from grace is both beautiful and heartbreaking, in a note-perfect rendition of I Dreamed a Dream during which the audience it utterly, eerily, silent. The light relief, provided by the Thénadiers (Ian Hughes and Helen Walsh), sees the dastardly husband and wife pair line their pockets by any means necessary, with Hughes bringing out the darkness of his character without compromising the humour of the duo.

With themes of oppression and revolution which ring powerfully for a modern audience, an ensemble who are pitch perfect throughout, and a cast of principal characters that bring every range of emotion through their voice and performance, Les Misérables is touching, heart-wrenching, and utterly beautiful.

Runs until 4 April 2020

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