Ashley Gilmour as Enjolras and Company in Les Misérables – Photograph Johan Persson
Venue: Sondheim Theatre
Lyrics Alain Boubill & Herbert Kretzmer
Book: Claude-Michel Schonberg
Director: James Powell
Reviewer: Leyla Demirel
Star Rating: ★★★★★
The longest-running musical in the West End, Les Misérables has gone through a few changes and theatres but is currently back at the Sondheim Theatre, moving audiences on the daily. In their current production of the staged concert, it is clear to see why after so many years, this show remains timeless and audiences are still drawn back time and time again.
After such a turbulent year of theatre, it is a breath of fresh air to see a classic show such as Les Misérables really hit the mark and act as a clear example of how incredible theatre is and why it is so vital. From the iconic opening notes at the start of the show in Look Down, to the final note belted out by the entire company in the Finale, Les Misérables remains to be an incredibly powerful show.
Bradley Jaden as Javert gives a fantastic performance, being able to portray Javert’s character development right in front of the audience’s eyes. His switch from displaying a strict and controlling prison guard in Look Down to capturing the turmoil and spiraling of Javert’s mind in Javert’s Suicide is remarkable. Not only is Jaden a versatile performer, but he really understands his role and is dedicated to delivering a heart-breaking performance every night.
Dean Chisnall and Jon Robyns share the role of Jean Valjean. In this performance, Dean Chisnall takes on the hugely demanding role. Chisnall takes this role entirely in his stride and his Jean Valjean is a stellar match to Jaden’s Javert. Chisnall is able to show Valjean’s epic transformation and journey throughout the show in a way that feels believable and raw. Through Chisnall’s strong vocals and sterling acting, Valjean remains a well-loved character. Furthermore, this performance ensures the iconic numbers such as Valjean’s Soliloquy and Bring Him Home are full of authenticity and remain as iconic as ever.
The energy from performers and orchestra alike is palpable. Despite this show having run for so many years, the performances given feel fresh and far from tired. Lucie Jones as Fantine beautifully translates the rawness of a mother’s desperation in I Dreamed a Dream, Jamie Muscato’s never ending passion as Eenjorlas and Shan Ako’s wistful performance as Eponine – the entire cast brings this show and their characters to life and make them real.
Whilst this set of casting may be noticeably lacking in diversity, it does not take away from how talented everyone on that stage is. Furthermore, the entire company is excellent at playing the show out so it hits every audience member, from the front row to right up to the grand circle.
Despite the show being a staged concert, this does not make the show feel any less because of it. With less staging and choreography than normal, direction from James Powell combined with the performances from every single cast member, has ensured the show still feels spectacular. With the reduced staging, certain scenes have no movement – such as the battles at the barricade – but this does not interrupt the pacing of the show.
The music in Les Misérables is stunning, thanks to Claude-Michel Schonberg. The music in this production is brought alive once more with orchestrations courtesy of Stephen Metcalfe, Christopher Jahnke, and Stephen Brooker and musical direction from Alfonso Casado Trigo.
The creatives have ensured that despite the lack of movement from the performers, the music more than makes up for it. The spectacular music brought together by this musical creative teams and the orchestra players themselves, combined with the equally spectacular lighting, from Paule Constable and Warren Letton, bring the scenes battles of the barricades and the tension in the sewers scenes together seamlessly.
Les Misérables remains as iconic as ever. From start to finish, the show is full of emotions, strong and beautiful vocals and music, and a story to capture and break hearts. More than worth the wait, Les Misérables: The Staged Concert is a stirring production and a fine example of the theatre we have all been desperate and fighting to bring back.
Runs until: 5 September (Staged Concert version)