Reviewed by Cath Joyce
Victor Hugo’s famous 19th century novel, Les Misérables is set in one of the most unsettled periods in French history. Living conditions were terrible, employees worked long hours and revolution was always in the air.
The story of Les Misérables follows prisoner 24601 (Jean Valjean) who has served 19 years hard labour for petty theft. After his release he struggles to make an honest life for himself, but his fortunes are transformed when an act of kindness by the bishop makes him realise that the only way to turn his life around is to break parole and go on the run. He succeeds, eventually becoming a factory owner and mayor however, Inspector Javert is never far away and will not stop until he tracks down prisoner 24601.
This is a really famous musical production, it has been running in the West End since 1985 so we had high expectations when we arrived at The Lowry last night.
Some musicals are really only known for one song but Les Misérables is filled with famous numbers and the musical themes repeat throughout the show making the tale flow easily across the 20 year story. Probably the most well known song from the show is Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream” which was performed flawlessly by Katie Hall. Dean Chisnall as Jean Valjean has an amazing voice and every note he sang was packed with expression, from the anger of a young man fresh out of prison to the emotion of the frail and dying man at the end of the night.
Whilst the story deals with quite depressing themes there is room for a bit of humour provided by the comic duo of innkeeper Thenardier (Ian Hughes) and his wife Madame Thenardier (Helen Walsh). Their performance of “Master of the House” bringing tears of laughter to the audience and huge applause.
The Lowry’s large stage was completely filled with the impressive set. Massive pieces of scenery were effortlessly brought on and off the stage, transporting us from the docks to the barricades and many other locations during the show. It wasn’t all about pieces of scenery though, some of the most impressive parts of the night were set on a fairly minimal stage but made use of almost magical projections onto the backdrop giving an illusion of depth and movement – especially impressive during the sewer scenes and Javert’s fall to his death.
The orchestra, led by Ben Ferguson played expertly and from the bold brass of the opening number to the playful “Master of House” and the uplifting “Do You Hear The People Sing” they filled the theatre with beautiful music.
This musical calls for a large cast and last night’s production certainly had that! I checked and there are almost 50 actors listed in the programme. The stage was packed as the cast made their final bows to the audience and every single one of them really did deserve the standing ovation they received. Every member of the cast was brilliant but special mention must be made of Lucas Melrose-Steel whose cheeky portrayal of Gavroche was absolutely perfect.
The performance is quite long, at around 3 hours with a 15 minute interval, but there was so much going on the time flew and all too soon the cast were singing the final song as the whole theatre rose to their feet, erupting into an awesome round of applause for a truly spectacular performance.
And for those wondering about my earlier comment, this show surpassed all our expectations, the singing, the costumes, the scenery and music were powerful, moving and simply amazing and I could quite easily have sat through the whole musical again!
Rating: 5 out of 5
Les Misérables is currently playing at The Lowry until Saturday 23rd April 2022.
Tickets start at £20 and are available from here or call the box office on 0343 208 6000