Review: Les Miserables at the Milton Keynes Theater Bedford News

My very first CD was also the original cast recording of the show and I didn’t think Victor Hugo’s classic tale could be any better then… but Friday night at the Milton Keynes Theater it certainly was!

Having seen The Glums – as it was first dubbed by critics – many times over the years, Cameron Mackintosh’s latest touring adaptation of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s masterpiece was taken to a new level and ensured every person in the theater 1438 seats seemed to have risen to a standing ovation.

Transported to 1815, the show opens with rows of chained and shackled men rowing a massive wooden prison carcass. Then prisoner 24601 is called to appear and is finally released on parole after 19 years in prison for having stolen a loaf of bread – five years for theft, the rest because he ran away – thus begins the epic of Jean Valjean, his setbacks as the story of Les Misérables unfolds in a truly dramatic fashion.

LES MISERABLES TOUR IN THE UNITED KINGDOM. Will Callan ‘Marius’. Photo by Danny Kaan

Valjean was superbly played by understudy Will Barrett on Friday night while his lifelong nemesis is the hulking, bossy and tenacious Inspector Javert (Nic Greenshields). Meanwhile, the story introduces so many different and quirky characters into their lives…from single mother Fantine (Katie Hall), her daughter Cosette (played by Paige Blankson and child by Zoe Akinyosade), to a Marius beloved (Will Callen), Parisian street girl Eponine (Nathania Ong with baby Everlyn Keily as her younger self) and Samuel Wyn-Morris as rebel student leader Enjolras.

But it’s the fabulous songbook that makes ‘Les Mis’ a huge hit – from Valjean’s tearful Bring Him Home, to Fantine’s jaw-dropping I Dreamed A Dream and Javert’s emotional Stars. And then there are the tears Empty Chairs at Empty Tables by Marius, Eponine’s move On My Own and the whole cast singing One Day More and Do You Hear The People Sing?… and everything is still spinning in my head!

Add to that the wonderful Thénardiers – the cackling Helen Walsh as Madame T and Ian Hughes as her twisted innkeeper husband – their hilarious comedic take on Master Of The House (which features a phallic-like wand) literally knocks your socks off. the House !

Briefly, the story goes something like this: After being released from prison and unable to find work, Valjean is accused of stealing silverware from the Bishop of Digne but is later given two precious candlesticks by the indulgent priest.

LES MISÉRABLES CIRCUIT. The business. Photo Danny Kaan

Eight years pass and while still on the run, he heads to Montreuil-Sur-Mer where he changes his name to Monsieur Madeleine and uses the precious money to become a factory owner as well as the town’s proud mayor. . Her employee Fantine is fired by the factory foreman (Jordan Simon Pollard) for not accepting her sexual advances in addition to the other workers learning that she has an illegitimate child from a man who abandoned her.

Now forced to live in misery on the streets, Fantine sells her body and her hair, and while a guilt-ridden Valjean learns of her plight, when she falls very ill, he pays for her hospitalization. Unfortunately, she dies but he promises that he will save his abused daughter Cosette (Castle on a Cloud) from the swindling publicans Monsieur and Madame Thénardier in nearby Montfermeil with whom she now lives.

It’s all drama and high emotion as Valjean ‘buys’ him off the innkeeper, but with Javert still hot on his heels, our hero is haunted both mentally and physically by the cruel police inspector. Naturally, Cosette grows into a beautiful young woman after which she meets Marius and they fall in love in a single day amid the student uprising that leads to revolution.

Everything is deeply moving and the barricade is assembled as the students sing Drink With Me To Days Gone By. Several youngsters take turns playing the streetwise Parisian kid Gavroche while the brilliant Vishal Soni was on call Friday night. Gavroche also became the first victim on the barricade after informing the students that Inspector Javert had thrown away his uniform and attempted to infiltrate them.

LES MISERABLES TOUR IN THE UNITED KINGDOM. Ian Hughes ‘Thenardier’ ​​and Helen Walsh ‘Madame Thénardier’. Photo Danny Kaan

Gavroche is a fabulous character straight out of a Dickens novel and is perfect for any youngster to play, with the Little People act adding so much to the story. As Javert is captured, he is surprisingly freed by Valjean expecting to be killed and, unable to live with the reality of what has happened, the policeman commits suicide by jumping off a bridge.

The death of Eponine in the arms of Marius is also a tearful (A Little Fall Of Rain) but as the rivers flow with blood after the French army guns down all the young men manning the barricade, a wounded Marius survives somehow and is rescued by Valjean who escapes with him into the Paris sewers where Mr. Thénardier steals the corpses.

Once reunited with Cosette, Valjean realizes that she and Marius are deeply in love, and the wedding bells finally ring as our hero makes his exit. However, the dressed Thénardiers – henceforth calling themselves baron and baroness! – infiltrate the ceremony and repeat their previous “master” number, but this time it’s Beggars at the Feast.

With Valjean now a very old man and close to death, he is reunited with the newly married couple and with a ghostly Fantine and Eponine also on the stage, he dies before the entire cast is reunited in the dreamlike finale which picks up the exciting Do You Hear The People Sing?

LES MISERABLES TOUR IN THE UNITED KINGDOM. Nic Greenshields ‘Javert’. Photo Danny Kaan

The big cast play an assortment of factory workers, sailors, whores, drinkers, passers-by and wedding guests who all help to bring such joy to the story of Les Miserables.

But a special mention must be made to the fabulous set design by Matt Kinley. In fact, each scene is like turning the pages of a well-laminated book, they are beautifully represented because Victor Hugo’s paintings seem straight out of the artists’ easel. The multi-story staging is absolutely breathtaking – from the deck of a huge ship to a bustling Paris street, from a quiet French cornfield to this huge barricade built by the rebel students – everything moves silently and so transparent on the stage.

While I loved the 2012 Tom Hooper film – which starred Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne – and the popular BBC Television drama Les Miserables starring Dominic West as Jean Valjean and David Oyelowo as Inspector Javert, in the hands of Will Barrett as Valjean and the rest of the cast, was nothing like a live performance that really brought Victor Hugo’s wonderful story to life.

The show lasts two hours 45 minutes (plus a 15 minute interval) and with Schönberg’s wonderful musical score and Boubil’s lyrics – translated into English and improved by South African blacksmith Herbert Kretzmer who sadly passed away in October 2020, at the age of 95 – this version of Les Misérables is set to last another 37 years and is sure to play to huge audiences wherever it is staged…don’t miss it!

Les Miserables play at the Milton Keynes Theater until Saturday May 21 with tickets from £13. General reservations: 0844 871 7615*; Access reservations: 0333 009 5399; Group reservations: 0207 206 1174, ATGTICKETS.COM/MiltonKeynes*

*Charges may apply. Calls cost up to 7p per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge

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This notice was published: 2022-04-30 07:00:17

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