City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Les Misérables, Festival Theatre, Review


By Erin Roche - Posted on 26 January 2019

4
LES MISERABLES. Barricades Photo by Michael Le Poer Trench Copyright CML.jpg
Show Details
Production: 
Alain Boubil (Concept, Book & Original French Lyrics), Claude-Michel Schonberg (Book & Music), Cameron Mackintosh (Producer), Herbert Kretzmer (Lyricist), Laurence Connor (Director), James Powell (Director), Matt Kinley (Set and Image Designer), Paul Constable (Lighting Designer), Mick Potter (Sound Designer), Andreane Neofitou (Costume Designer), Christine Rowland (Costume Designer), Michael Ashcroft (Musical Staging), Geoffrey Garratt (Musical Staging), 59 Productions (Projections Realisation), John Cameron (Original Orchestrations), Christopher Jahnke (New Orchestrations), Stephen Metcalfe (New Orchestrations), Stephen Brooker (Musical Supervisor/ New Orchestrations), Graham Hurman (Musical Supervisor), Trevor Nunn (Adaptation), John Caird (Adaptation), Jean-Marc Natel (Original Text), James Fenton (Additional Material), Jean-Pierre Van Der Spuy (Associate Director), Sam Hiller (Deputy Associate Director), Lauren Storer (Assistant Resident Director), Ben Atkinson (Musical Director), Benjamin Ferguson (Assistant Musical Director), Mark Hedges (Children's Director), Carrie Grant (Children's Musical Director), David Harris (Associate Set Designer), Simon Sherriff (Associate Lighting Designer), Nic Gray (Associate Sound Designer), Stefan Musch (Wig Supervisor), Laura Hunt (Costume Supervisor), Sylvia Addison (Orchestral Management)
Performers: 
Killian Donnelly (Jan Valjean), Nic Greenshields (Javert), Brian James Leys (The Bishop of Digne), Jordan Simon Pollard (Factory Foreman), Katie Hall (Fantine), Mary-Jean Caldwell (Factory Girl), Lee Ormsby (Bamatabois), Jamie Birkett (Madame), Emma Warran (Whore), Jessie Hart (Whore), Megan Gardiner (Whore), Ruby Lyon (Whore), Helen Aylott (Old Woman), Teleri Hughes (Wig Maker), Heidi Russell (Little Cosette), Lexi Sheppard (Little Cosette), Millie McGowan (Little Cosette), Sophie-Louise Dann (Madame Thernardier), Perrie Wong (Young Eponine), Ava Simpkin (Young Eponine), Erin Kempton (Young Emponine), Martin Ball (Thenardier), Charlie Hagen (Gavroche), Max Mackintosh (Gavroche), Rodney Watts (Gavroche), Tegan Bannister (Eponine), Bronwen Hanson (Cosette), Leo Miles (Montparnasse), Michael Burgen (Babet), Brian James Leys (Brujon),Lee Ormsby (Claquesous), Will Richardson (Enjolras), Harry Apps (Marius), Aaron Pryce-Lewis (Combeferre), Shane O'Riordan (Feuilly), Zac Hamilton (Courfeyrac), Danny Colligan (Joly), Ruben Van Keer (Grantaire), Jordan Simon Pollard (Lesgles), Keoni Blockx (Jean Prouvaire), Corrine Priest (Swing), Janne Snellen (Swing), Joseph Anthony (Swing), Nicholas Carter (Swing), Nicholas Corre (Swing) Orchestra: Ben Atkinson (Director), David Larkin (Violin), Miles Brett (Viola), William Harvey (Cello), Will Henderson (Double Bass), Abigail Burrows (Flute/ Piccolo/ Alto Flute/ Alto Recorder), Peter Facer (Oboe/ Cor Anglais), Colin Blamey (Clarinet in Bb/ Clarinet in Eb/ Bass Clarinet/ Tenor Recorder), Laura Llewellyn-Jones (Horn 1), Chris Beagles (Horn 2), Oliver Carey (Trumpet/Flugel Horn/Piccolo Trumpet), Christopher Gill (Bass Trombone/Tuba), Daniel Bradley (Percussion), Ryan Mackenzie (Keyboard), Ben Ferguson (Keyboard 2/ Assistant MD), Sylvia Addison for Music Solutions (Orchestral Management)
Running time: 
175mins

A sold out theatre holds its breath as the triumphant orchestra booms its first few notes, signaling the revolution is about to begin. Les Misérables is a staple in the musical theatre wheelhouse of powerful, galvanzing productions, and this staging at the Festival Theatre is no different. Audiences are clearly keen to see this stirring musical adaption of the 19th century novel on the French Revolution, first premiering in 1987 and bursting hearts ever since. This is the first time in 10 years the production has toured the UK, and, with a sold-out run in Edinburgh, it is evident that theatergoers are delighted by the reproduction.

The cast is strong. Nic Greenshields as Javert is unyielding in countenance and in vocal bravado; Killian Donnelly as Jean Valjean is earnest and wise, vocally both delicate and potent. Donnelly is delighted to employ his beautiful falsetto and baritone belt, but shuffles through the lower ranges between these moments of light. The dichotomy of these two characters is what drives the story and carries it into the limbs of those in the velvet seats. Where one man would rather take his own life than face any personal growth or nuanced understanding of the law, the other devotes his life to honour and humanity.

Katie Hall as Fantine is golden, both her belt and her range. Most notably, though, is her thoughtfulness on building Fantine’s truncated story arc. I Dreamed a Dream is arguably one of the best ballads of the opera, let alone musical theatre repertoire in general; a conscious build-up to the climax is necessary, and Hall develops that from the moment she arrives. From withdrawn and demure in the factory to starting her solo seated, alone, on the floor, she builds into the escalating notes. It is always a shame this character’s time is so short.

A character in and of itself, the set is overwhelming. Floor-to-ceiling structures twist into scenes that sit in the foreground of projections-- reimagined scenery and paintings inspired by Victor Hugo, the original novelist himself. Lighting is ominous, supporting the ever-present themes of pain and despair, of lives living in hope for a better tomorrow. Special effects are resounding as gunpowder blasts echo throughout the theatre and as fog spreads throughout the stage, dropping off into the pit.

The end of Act I is, as one would hope: incredible. As soon as you hear the repeating modulations of those four cascading notes, it’s one rumble growing into a crescendo of hope, justice and freedom for all. Throughout the entire opera, the choir rolls together like a ship upon the waves, heaving and ho’ing in tandem, and it is a chills-inducing sight to see the red flag finally wave above the barricade.

This tale of honour, humanity, morality in the face of what is written in legislation speaks volumes to the current climate of today. There’s a fury growing in the populace onstage, young people gathering in droves to protest injustice, a reminder of the kind of revolutions happening in many places in this world at the moment. Some men will devote themselves to honour, others to power, and this production leaves you with the message, “There’s a new world to be won. Do you hear the people sing?”

Jan 22 - Feb 16
2pm Sundays, 2.30pm Thursdays, Saturdays and Wednesday 13 Feb, 7.30pm Tuesdays to Saturdays
Running time (approx.): 2 hours 55 minutes (Inc. 15 minute interval)
FESTIVAL THEATRE
BOX OFFICE: 0131 529 6000

Photo by Michael Le Poer Trench