Les Miserables Staged Concert, Gielgud Theatre | Review

Les Miserables Staged Concert
10/08/19
Gielgud Theatre
Reviewed by Mia Goddard
★★★★★

Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, ‘Les Miserables’ tells the story of prisoner Jean Valjean who breaks parole, as he runs from Inspector Javert on a journey beyond the barricades. Meanwhile, the life of a working class girl, Fantine, is at turning point as she turns to prostitution to pay money to the innkeeper and his wife who look after her child, Cosette. Valjean tries to help Fantine and promises to take care of the child, eventually leading to a love triangle between Cosette, Marius who is a student of the rebellion, and Eponine, a girl of the streets. The people sing of their anger and Enjolras leads the students to fight upon the barricades.
Les Miserables is a classic and one of my favourite musicals, but this concert version of the show is all kinds of amazing. With a stellar cast, the Les Miserables Stage Concert is the must see theatre event of the year!
Alfie Boe does an outstanding job in the role of Jean Valjean and shows another level of versatility to his acting skills. It’s an amazing performance, one of the best I’ve seen. He elegantly captures the frustration, anger, faith and compassion of the character. It’s one of the hardest roles in musical theatre and it would be easy at times to overdo the emotion, especially in the show’s opening prologue, but here it’s all controlled effortlessly. A highlight for me was Boe’s rendition of ‘Bring Him Home’ which was simply exquisite.
Pursuing Valjean is Michael Ball’s brilliant performance as Javert. He showed a very different side to the character that I haven’t seen previously, and his powerful performance of ‘Stars’ gets among the biggest cheers of the night. His performance is spectacular. Ball and Boe are a perfect combination vocally and physically so that the thrill and the conflict is present throughout. ‘The Confrontation’ was as exciting as I have ever seen it and certainly thrilling.
Joining them onstage is Matt Lucas as Thénardier; a part that feels as if it has been created for him. He encapsulates the scheming and manipulative ‘Master of the House’, and his occasional asides are hysterical. His vocal performance is convincing, and his chemistry with Katy Secombe is a joy to watch. Secombe makes a startling, provocative and immensely enjoyable Madame Thénardier with perfect comedic timing, and alongside Lucas they make the perfect pair. The audience practically yelped their appreciation for them. It really was very special to see them together again in this production. They both clearly love it, and their energy carries the audience from scene to scene.
Carrie Hope Fletcher is also part of the stellar line-up, this time playing Fantine after previously taking on the role of Eponine at the Queen’s Theatre and also in Dubai. She gives an outstanding and captivating performance. Her crystalline delivery of ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ is simply supreme. Her role is executed to perfection and it’s impossible to not believe the anguish and hardship of the character from the very beginning.
Shan Ako makes an excellent Eponine. Her revulsion at her own family’s behaviour is totally understandable, as is her attraction to Rob Houchen’s handsome Marius. She is eloquent in her silences and not afraid to sing softly to great effect. Her character is so well established, and her ‘On My Own’ is very affective and totally in character. Her vocals are incredible. But she saves the best till last: her final moments in Houchen’s arms were beautiful. Only the hardest heart could fail to be moved by her performance here.
Rob Houchen is easily one of the best performers I have seen tackle Marius. I’ve been lucky enough to see him in the role before and he completely convinces us as the idealist who suddenly, unexpectedly falls in love and whose life is changed forever because of that. He has an excellent stage presence, a wonderful baritone and ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’ is beautifully delivered.
Lily Kerhoas as Cosette has a stunning voice and gave a sweet and beautiful performance. There’s something so delightful and excitint about her Cosette, and she brings a fresh sensibility to ‘In My Life’ that made me listen to the words for the first time and have a new appreciation for the character. I adored her first appearance as she nods to her younger self whilst entering the stage, marking the transition between time periods.
As Enjolras, Bradley Jaden cuts a suitably dashing figure and there is no doubting his conviction about the need for revolution. He too has outstanding vocals and plenty of charisma and style and I particularly liked his relationship with Gavroche and the sincerity with which he faced up to the reality that Eponine’s death signals. I’ve seen him play both Enjorlas and Javert in the past and he truly is an incredible performer.
This production had one of the strongest ensembles I have ever seen and each member brought something different to the show. I’m so lucky I was able to catch the first performance of this incredible show and I can’t wait to visit again soon.
From the innovative new staging to its magnificent cast, every inch of this production of Les Miserables will take your breath away.