No matter how many times I see this show, it never fails to move me: I just love it. It is like Teflon and I will not hear anything bad said about it: a great position for a wannabe reviewer I’m sure but hey, it’s my blog! On its revolving drum set, Les Misérables tells a story of romance and revenge set against the backdrop of the French revolution, two men pursue a vendetta over decades whilst revolutionaries fall in love and die in battle. And boy is it dark, one sometimes forgets just how dark it gets with death never far from any of the characters, making it compulsive viewing.
As a musical, I think it is one of the most rousing that there is. The ensemble numbers are just huge, and there’s so many of them that I get goosebumps virtually every 10 minutes. ‘Do You Hear The People Sing’, ‘Red & Black’, ‘Look Down’ and possibly the best song in a musical ever, ‘One Day More’, all of them winners. And then there’s the solos, so many of them unfortunately famous as talent audition staples, but in their right context ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ and ‘On My Own’ are beautifully moving and ‘Bring Him Home’, when performed well as it is here, is a thing of falsetto wonder.
Vocally, Cassie Compton was stunning as Eponine, really making the most of her ensemble parts as well as the solos, ‘On My Own’ is of course excellent but even her small but vital contributions to ‘One Day More’ were brilliant. Melanie La Barrie as a pouting, bawdy Mme Thénardier is a comic delight but I was a little underwhelmed by Gary Watson and Edward Baruwa as Marius and Enjolras, not sure what it was but they weren’t convincing me.
But this is Valjean’s show as John Owen-Jones simply owns it with a vocally superb performance and massive stage presence which is all the more remarkable considering how many times he must have played this part by now. Playing off him as Javert is Hans Peter Janssens who more than holds his own with his stern looks and voice, perfect for his rigid approach to applying the law.
I don’t imagine that any review of Les Misérables would change peoples’ minds about seeing this show. It is such a part of the everyday consciousness that you’ll know by now whether you like it or not, and whether you’d spend money to see it. For my own part, I think it continues to satisfy with its evergreen moments of broad comedy, heartbreaking tragedy and life-affirming fidelity.