Words by Neus Forner
My expectations were set high for such a well-known and loved musical, but it still blew me away in every possible sense. I was awed from the first minute to the last. Les Misérables is a story from Victor Hugo’s incredible novel that goes by the same name and has been adapted into a musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, Jean-Marc Natel, Herbert Kretzmer. This Musical first aired in Paris in 1980, followed up by London in 1985, making it one of the longest-running musicals in the world. This two-act musical follows the story of Jean Valjean, a French peasant, who by stealing a loaf of bread ends up being prisoner for 19 years.
Despite me hearing and knowing some of the most popular songs like I Dreamed A Dream, or On My Own, I did not know the whole story until last night. I really believe that if you have the opportunity of going to see this musical without knowing much, do it. I was constantly surprised and shocked by the different plot twists happening throughout the duration of the play. One of the things I was most shocked about was that there was no talking, all the story was told through the beautiful and heart-wrenching songs performed by the amazingly skilled Orquestra directed by Ben Atkinson and the spectacular cast. In the beginning, I thought this might make following the story slightly harder, but it just enhanced the whole experience of this musical, and it made the music even more special.
One of the most amazing aspects of this production was the set. All of the different sets that appeared throughout this musical kept getting better and better. From the Barricade to Thénardier’s bar, everything was spectacular. Some even had various floors and it took the visual experience to a whole new level. The constant change and movement of the sets created an electric and energetic atmosphere, and everyone was in aw with the engagement of the props and the sets. The digital background that mimicked real-life settings was also phenomenal, it made the show even more dynamic. I especially enjoyed the scenes with the barricade where all of the students are fighting, shooting and falling from every possible angle. The inclusion of small fireworks made this scene even more breathtaking.
My favourite scenes were the closing song for the first act One More Day, Valejan’s Bring Him Home and the Finale. These scenes were all so powerful, they struck me so hard. One More Day was the perfect closing for act one. Almost all of the cast was singing and acting in this number and it was jaw-dropping. Barnaby Hughes’ interpretation of Enjorlas was magnificent, both his singing and his acting was divine, and it was especially seen in this song. Of course, the star of the musical for me was Dean Chisnall, who plays the famous Jean Valjean. His fascinating interpretations got me tearing up in various of his numbers. Valjean’s emotions where felt in every note he sang, and he made me feel as if I was alone in the audience. His heartbreaking redemption of Bring Him Home was one of the most beautiful and emotional numbers I have ever seen. Eponine’s On My own, interpreted by Frances Mayli Mccann, was a wistful tale of love and despair that was felt perfectly in her voice. I also loved Katie Hall’s version of I Dreamed a Dream.
I think it is safe to say that Les Misérables is from today my favourite musical. The mournful story told by the wonderful songs has changed what musical theatre means to me. The magnificent cast made this experience even better if that’s even possible. One only had to notice the never-ending ovation the cast got at the end of this 3-hour performance. I will never stop recommending this life-changing show to anyone. If you ever have the opportunity to learn about Jean Valjean’s life, take it and enjoy it as much as I did.