For the fifth blogmas post, I thought I would write a little review/document my experience of watching the Les Miserables UK Tour at Cardiff’s Millenium Centre! My mum got Nanna, Grandad, Alex, her and myself tickets for Christmas 2019 and the day had finally come to see it.
As a little bit of context, I adore Les Mis and I think it will always be my all time favourite musical. It was the first West End production I had ever seen at age 8 when I was playing the role of Little Eponine in my local theatre company’s production. I remember being absolutely blown away and my love for the show has only grown since. I am lucky enough to have also appeared in a second production with my school where I played Madame Thenardier and all of the other female roles are definitely on my theatre role bucket list!
The UK tour is in Cardiff from December until the 4th January 2020 and is the first production of the show to reveal the new 21st century staging. For those of you who may no the familiar, the traditional staging of Les Mis uses a revolving stage to portray much off the show and has recently undergone a contemporary revamp. I have to admit I was hesitant about this as the revolve has always been one of the things that stood out for me when I saw it on the West End. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the choices made and at most times the new staging was breathtaking.
Just a disclaimer that the rest of this post will include spoilers so please do not read if you want a surprise when watching it yourself! Also just a shout out to my mum for getting us the most amazing seats! As a reference point this seat was J28 and it was the perfect view!
The opening scene filled me with dread as I thought the use of the projection screen to show water splashes to help depict the idea of being on a ship was tacky. Projection screens were used throughout and the opening really didn’t sit right with me. However, its use throughout the rest of the performance was amazing! Stand out moments using the projection/moving screen were during the sewer scenes and Javert’s death. Javert’s death scene was one of the most visually stunning pieces of staging I have seen in a long time! I can’t even describe how they did it but managed to perfectly depict a real bridge and the fall into the water. Alex wasn’t a fan of the sewers but I loved it – particularly when Valjean carrying Marius appear from the back shadows – it really looked like the tunnels lead back endlessly.
Other fantastic staging including the barricade scene which was absolutely heart wrenching. The acting was sublime and the use of lighting ‘crosses’ to mark targets on the men before they were shot created a visual spectacle. Gavroche’s death was gut wrenching and the choice to wheel Enjorlas on at the end, in a wheelbarrow clutching the flag was so effective. The large houses and gates that closed and opened from the sides of the stage were stunning and honestly the scenery was just phenomenal. I also loved the Empty Chairs at Empty Tables scene which utilised candles and had those who died on the barricade return as ghost to surround Marius as he sung. If I could change anything from the staging perspective it would only be too have the stage lit a little bit more as the whole thing was very, very dark.
As for performances, I won’t go into too much detail as they were all fantastic and I am in no place to give in depth critique to professional performers. However, I was surprised to arrive on the second night in Cardiff to an understudy Valjean and Javert. They were both phenomenal. Apart from one dodgy note from Valjean (not sure if it was an artistic choice but was very weird) he was just amazing. He voice was definitely his strength and despite hi being younger than I was expecting for Valjean he definitely did the role more than justice. Javert was very interesting as his voice was so unique. He was a proper bass who employed a lot of natural vibrato but it really suited the role and was a portrayal I had never heard before. However, his acting was what stood out to me as the whole time he was just brilliant – particularly during his suicide soliloquy.
Other stand out performances were from Fantine who was fantastic and Enjorlas. Mention has to also be given to the fellow playing Grantaire. His performance for drew my attention to him in every scene and his reaction to little Gavroche getting shot was just heart breaking. The Thenardier’s are always fab (although I have seen funnier) and the ensemble singings was just outstanding – goosebumps x1000. However, the only disappointing thing for me was Eponine purely because she had a thick Scottish accent which made absolutely no sense as she was the only one. I felt this impacted her diction and also just didn’t sit well with me. However, Alex loved it so each to their own it just wasn’t a choice I would have personally made.
The company got a well deserved 10 minutes of standing ovation for every bow. The production was sublime and I could watch it a million times over. I am so glad Alex has finally seen it professionally and can now appreciate my adoration for it.
I hope you enjoy it as much as me if you get to see the tour!