Top positive review
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Miserable? No, sensationally good!!
on 5 October 2010
"In the rain, the pavement shines like silver . . ." Happy Silver Anniversary, Les Mis, bounding back more colour, incisive, and moving than ever. I attended both the historic O2 live concert and in the Barbican to see the too-short-lived 25th Anniversary Touring Production. [So perhaps I may commend the work of 3 people in the Barbican - John Owen Jones (Jean Valjean), James Earl Carpenter (Javert) and Gareth Gates (a fine Marius).]
Many other reviewers have praised the O2 cast, which included the returning 1985 cast. So let me emphasise the other glories of this production. Matt Kinley's breathtaking design loses the revolving stage, and references the art of novelist Victor Hugo (didn't know he was painterly? Neither did I.). Strong echoes, also, of misty Turner and Delacroix - all moody revolutionary tableaux, dramatically spotlit (Paule Constable, lighting). Factories, churches, windows, marvellous back-projections. And a STUNNING "coup-de-theatre" for Javert's ending.
Musically, the new orchestrations, by Chris Jahnke, Stephen Metcalfe & Stephen Brooker, add colour, depth, intensity and subtlety. They bring out the cleverness as well as lyricism of the score. And the new orchestrations fully support the lyrics, e.g., "With their voices soft as thunder" followed by an ominous, barely perceptible rolling drum (yup, thunder alright . . .) that chills you.
The singing and acting at the O2 was top-notch. Alfie Boe's operatic voice goes effortlessly to the centre of all the "money" notes, perhaps therefore not as intense as the musical-theatre singers, but with undeniable warmth. And his "Bring Me Home" was perfect. The ageless Jenny Galloway rolled back the years as Madame T., ("or I'll forget to be nice!"); Matt Lucas was in superb acting and revelatory vocal form as Thenardier.
Oh, it goes on. A life-changing, historic concert. Immediate addition to your Christmas list, everyone! (and apparently Cameron M is planning a film version. To be continued, then.)
One last word. Whatever dark and depressing aspects this work may have, whatever self-indulgence, I personally feel its abiding success is because it is all about LOVE ("How can I live when we are parted?" "Still I say, there's a way for us", etc.). Au revoir, mes amis.