Les Miserables is my favourite musical. I first saw it in Manchester in 1999 but didn’t quite get it until 2nd time round in London. There’s so many different plots going on plus the confusion between Fantine, Cosette and Eponine had me baffled. Still nothing could get in the way of the songs which make me feel like my chest is about to tear apart through the pain.
This year it celebrates its 25th anniversary since its debut performance at the Barbican in London in 1985 and celebrates by the touring cast returning to that theatre for 3 weeks. The big day of celebration comes on October 2 when it’s possible to see 3 productions of the show all in the same day – 10am at Barbican, 2pm at Queens and then 7pm at the O2. My kind of mental.
Last night I went to see the touring production at the Barbican which featured Gareth Gates demonstrating some exceptionally odd, flat hair in his role as Marius but unexpectedly some really great acting. Unfortunately there was no encore featuring a mash-up of Anyone of Us and Sunshine.
Tickets are in no way cheap at £65 but this production almost felt like the definitive one. It’s a much re-worked, totally new production which features lush orchestration and, much to the horror of traditionals, no revolving stage. Instead the sets were wonderfully accompanied by a projected backdrop that at points made you feel like you were in an episode of Knightmare (this is a good thing). In particular I love the use of the projector during Do You Hear The People Sing, the sewer scenes and the fascinating, baffling way they used it in Javert’s suicide.
When it comes to music, the West End always sounds like it’s a couple of casio keyboards that are being played off a tape. Here we had a real life orchestra making the songs sound even fuller and effective than normal. ‘Stars’ was given a whole new lease of life with the audience jumping to their feet and the delicate ‘Bring Him Home’ was even more effective. Although ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ was a bit pitchy, the mighty ‘On My Own’ was filled with more oomph and anger than normal as Rosalind James’ poured her guts into a faster rendition of the showstopped. My favourite song from the show is ‘A Heart Full of Love’ and Katie Hall and Gareth Gates played it perfectly with a mixture of shyness and excitement. Still, it’s Eponine that makes me sob like a sad panda.
Les Miserables at The Barbican until 2 October. If I ever spot a man wearing the t-shirt to the left I am immediately proposing.