Most of my concert reviews are about the performances of singers or bands. But after heading to Sydney to catch a performance of Les Miserables last weekend, I figured it was only right that I made time for a different kind of music review.
Ordinarily when I see a show I’m keen as mustard and my husband’s the slightly reluctant companion. It’s not that he doesn’t like music, but he’d generally rather have a night in with the stereo than see an artist in the flesh. However, when we learned Les Mis was coming to town, it was him who dragged me along. I’d seen the movie, again at his insistence, but it’s never been a musical that’s particularly resonated with me. But I couldn’t fail to be impressed with this latest production.
Where the most recent film adaptation was filled with big stars, the current Australian production has people who largely unknown outside the theatre world. The only name I recognised was the splendid Trevor Ashley playing Thénardier, and it took me some time to make the connection as I’m so used to seeing him in drag! Personally I think the lack of big names is a good thing for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it stops you getting pulled out of the story. These people can truly inhabit these characters because you’re never thinking about them being anywhere else. Also, clearly the creators were casting for talent over big names. I’m sure the creators of the Hollywood film could have found a stronger Javert, for example, but he likely wouldn’t have had the profile of Russell Crowe to get bums on seats.
The cast of this musical are stellar. I was floored by Simon Gleeson as Jean Valjean, who in my opinion might have done better than Hugh Jackman’s Oscar winning performance. Hayden Tee as Javert was every bit his equal. Kerrie Anne Greenland’s turn as Eponine was a much smaller role, but her performance of “On My Own” brought tears to my eyes. I can’t be sure which of the little boys played Gavroche when I saw it, but he was born to play that role. What a natural! It’s such a shame this production decided to omit “Little People”! It would had added even more poignancy to his untimely death.
The incredible cast were supported by a really beautiful set with excellent lighting effects that really brought the play to life. I wondered whether it would lose something for me being on the stage, without Hollywood special effects and that big budget, but it was so cleverly done. Javert’s death in particular was incredibly realistic.
I might not be as big a Les Mis fan as my husband, but I challenge anyone to be unmoved when the chorus of voices join in songs like “One More Day” and “Can You Hear the People Sing?” The current production of Les Miserables is a master stroke, and I’m so glad I was dragged along. If you’re living in Sydney and you’ve been considering going, don’t hesitate. You won’t be disappointed.