Touring – reviewed at Liverpool Empire
Something special has come to the Empire, you can tell. It’s in the atmosphere – the weight of expectation and genuine excitement as the audience settles in. We’re in a venue that certainly gives a grand old-school sense of occasion, and Les Misérables is nothing if not ultimate theatre.
I’m a relatively recent Les Mis convert, and with 20 years passing since a touring version came this way, for many people this latest Cameron Mackintosh production may provide the first opportunity to see it live. The anticipation on my visit was palpable.
More than perhaps any other show of its kind, I’m always amazed with how much Les Mis manages to cram into its finely-crafted three hours. Themes of love and war, faith and duty, inequality and redemption, loss and hope and ultimately life, death and humanity are keenly examined to create a quite unparalleled drama.
Victor Hugo’s tale is a true saga, practically every song in Boublil and Schonberg’s book is (rightly) musical theatre cannon, and put together they demand, or deserve, an epic production to see it all through to highest possible standard.
The story of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict given the chance to start a new life in a France on the eve of revolution, introduces a range of characters at the fate of, as they will sing, “what God in heaven has in store”. Theatre parlance gives the show a nickname of a comically loose translation: The Glums. But there is an incredible heart and beauty in watching this show unfold.
The cast may not be household names but they’ve West End credentials to spare. On this occasion, understudy Zac Hamilton stepped up to the role of Valjean for a stunning performance reminiscent of 24601 contemporary Alfie Boe; as nemesis Javert, Nic Greenshields was truly outstanding.
In a crowded field of talent, Katie Hall’s Fantine tugged at the heartstrings, Sophie-Louise Dann chewed the scenery par excellence as the grotesque innkeeper’s wife Madame Thenardier, and Dexter Barry genuinely shone as pint-sized gutsy revolutionary Gavroche.
But it’s the spectacle of the thing that makes this Les Mis a must see, and the mastery of the tech bringing it all together is worthy of high praise, from MD Ben Atkinson directing the orchestra to Paule Constable’s noticeably striking lighting design, from the array of spotlights directing the eye through the action of One Day More to the chinks of light streaming through the barricades, it is exceptional throughout. Large scale projections are invaluable for getting round tricky scenes like the fate of Javert and getting down into the sewer, adding a little wow factor without being distracting.
All in all, it’s a theatrical experience to tick off the bucket list, beautifully imagined and flawlessly executed.
The post REVIEW: Les Misérables, Liverpool Empire appeared first on MADE UP.