"Sheer passion and pace"
-The Daily Telegraph-

"Has lost none of its power"
-The Independent-

""...a rousing, shamelessly entertaining evening""
-The Guardian-

Les Misérables Tickets

Les Miserables continues to Dream the Dream

Critic Rating

31 January 2012, Sondheim Theatre (Queen's Theatre)
Dominic Dominic
After a record breaking 25 years in the West End the current London production of Alain Boublil and Claude Michel Schonberg’s Les Miserables is still as fresh as ever. Their new marketing campaign brands the show ‘Forever Young’ – a claim they certainly live up to at the Queen’s Theatre, proving that ‘the world’s most popular musical’ looks set to run and run. Having seen the show numerous times in various capacities ranging from the original production at the Palace Theatre to the ‘Dream Cast’ of 1995 and the epic 25th Anniversary Concert at the 02 last year, this particular performance certainly stands out. From fresh staging to intricate new orchestrations, the show has shaken off its ‘tourist trap’ reputation and stands out once again as an epic evening of musical theatre at its finest.

Ramin Karimloo shone as convict Jean Valjean, commanding presence without seeming over bearing or selfish. His voice went above and beyond the demands of the role, from the powerful ‘Confrontation’ to the technically challenging ‘Who Am I?’, shaking off any ghosts of Valjean past, bringing a subtle and measured personality to each of the numbers. The stillness achieved during the second act aria ‘Bring Him Home’ solidified his position within the ensemble, commanding the otherwise restless audience’s attention fully for the first time that evening. He was matched onstage by Hadley Fraser as Inspector Javert who broke free from the romanticism of his Raul during the pairing’s last onstage performance in the 25th Anniversary Production of The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall last year, proving himself to be a fine actor in a more three-dimensional role. Both actors restrained from overplaying each role, delivering honest and genuine performances, the likes of which I have not seen before at the Queen’s Theatre.

The leads were supported by a vibrant and fresh ensemble who enjoyed each moment of the show, each one connected and reinvigorated with the production. Alexia Khadime brought a new touch to the role of Eponine giving the character a new spark as well as an ‘edgier’ vocal which allowed her to stamp her mark on one of the show’s signature standards. Marius was played by first cover Fra Fee whose voice succeed any other I have heard in the past, cementing the role into the heart of the musical rather than as a romantic annoyance which can so often be the case. His youthful energy allowed the audience to invest in his plight, alongside Cossette (who has to be, after Meg Giry in Phantom the most unforgiving role every conceived in a musical) balancing the multiple story lines whilst providing a real drive for Valjean throughout the second act.

It was surprising to hear brand new orchestrations for much of the show, provided by Christopher Jahnke which brightened up many of the numbers, in particular the raunchy ‘Lovely Ladies’ and the Thenardier’s comic number ‘Master of the House’ (delivered brilliantly in this instance by Cameron Blakely and Katy Secombe). After a turbulent history between the show and the musician’s unions regarding orchestra size, hearing the show performed as it was intended for the stage was a real gift.

Far from looking stale, the production is tight and thrilling. Focus has shifted to the characters, and for the first time I was able to invest in each of the key figures and understand both their motives and issues. Previous casts have treated the show as a vehicle for spectacle and delivering a score of back-to-back hits, but this current cast brings an intelligent understanding to the musical which is both affecting and honest, proving that the show is 'Forever Young'.

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As fresh and vibrant as ever

Critic Rating

31 January 2012, Sondheim Theatre (Queen's Theatre)
Tim Tim
After running in the West End for the past 26 years, Les Miserables carries its age lightly, with new scoring by Christopher Jahnke and a strong cast led by Ramin Karimloo. Set against the backdrop of the French peasant uprisings of the 1830’s (and not the Revolution as many mistakenly presume), this operatic production successfully adapts Victor Hugo’s sprawling novel into an epic and moving piece that rivals anything else the West End has to offer.

The story follows Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who served 19 years in a prison camp for stealing a loaf of bread. He escapes parole and manages to start a new life for himself as the mayor of a small town and adopts an orphan named Cosette. Meanwhile, the nefarious police inspector Javert continue his quest to find Valjean, and as fate would have it, he arrives in the village, causing Valjean and Cosette to flee to Paris. In Paris, Cosette finds herself involved with a young revolutionary, Marius, and Javert and Valjean’s finally confront each other amidst the climax of the poor’s revolt.

Given the dense plot, it’s a triumph that the score by Claude-Michel Schonberg, lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, with an English libretto by Herbert Kretzmer, are able to carry the narrative through a cavalcade of locations and a litany of different characters.  Whilst the desire to tug at our heartstrings is a bit over-handed throughout, most notably during the somewhat insipid exchanges between Cosette and Marius, the musical’s bombastic score and fast pace manage to overwhelm any reservations about the production’s penchant for melodrama.

As Valjean, Ramin Karimloo is impressive, demonstrating range and versatility in both larger choral numbers and more intimate moments like “Bring Him Home”. Hadley Fraser as Javert provides a formidable counterpoint, with an equally beautiful voice and a clearer characterisation. Alexia Khadime brings a refreshingly unique take to Eponine, whilst Katy Secombe and Cameron Blakely bring a tinge of malice to the comical Thenardiers. Caroline Sheen as Fantine is the only noticeable weak link, failing to convey the desperation and degradation of the role despite a solid voice.

One of the most important characters in the play seems to be the set by John Napier, which has again been brought into the new millennium with refined mechanisation. The revolving, fully collapsible barricade is justifiably an enduring image of Les Miserables, which is no less magical than it was a quarter of a century ago. Whilst other West End long-runners such as The Phantom of the Opera, with its orchestration stuck in the 80’s, have begun to show their age, this production is as fresh and vibrant as ever.

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Charles Spencer
“What’s really memorable is its sheer passion and pace. Doomy-gloomy through-sung musicals aren’t usually my thing, but there are many moments that send shivers of excitement racing down the spine, others when it is overwhelmingly moving.”

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Michael Coveney
“Claude-Michel Schönberg’s music packs an almighty punch, and brings audiences to their feet every night of the year all over the world.”

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Lyn Gardner
“I always think the sign of any good theatre adaptation is when it sends you straight to the library for a copy of the novel. This does, and it sends you there singing loudly.”

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