Okay, the most popular musical in the world comes to town. Now, I’ve experienced Les Misérables in the West End so therefore couldn’t pass an opportunity to see the tour. However, the fact it is so popular means tickets are like gold and despite great efforts, my party was still in Row W of the Birmingham Hippodrome (Three from the rear of the stalls).

Now my only major gripe is with the theatre itself. Don’t charge over £50 for seats with what is essentially a restricted view. In Row W, you’re under the Circle and viewing the stage is somewhat akin to watching through a letterbox. Then, the sound. You’re in this claustrophobic area and the full audio experience doesn’t reach. Think ditching a surround sound system to use a transistor radio instead. There we have the big niggles, so on with the show.

From start to finish Les Misérables is everything you’d expect. Good staging and excellent performances in both acting and voice. Okay, the set is nowhere near as good as at The Queen’s Theatre, London and the revolving stage is sorely missed. But not every theatre is equipped for this, therefore I’ll give the tour the benefit of doubt.

I must first pay great praise to Killian Donnelly (Jean Valjean) and Nic Greenshields (Javert). Both are at the top of their game and could not have been better in the respective solos of Who Am I? Bring Him Home, Stars and Javert’s Suicide. Other great numbers on the night (Not that any were poor) included Master of the House, In My Life, A Heart Full of Love and A Little Fall of Rain. My favourite number, though, is always One Day More, having performed the Javert lines on several occasions.

The character of Marius was Harry Apps who gave a good rendition of Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. However, the appearances Marius’ dead friends were not as haunting as I’ve previously seen them. Cosette was portrayed by Bronwen Hanson and for once, it was lovely to see this character less of a Mary-Sue and more realistic as the young woman she would have been, given her upbringing. And a beautiful voice.

The unfortunate Fantine was Katie Hall who delivered I Dreamed a Dream the best I’ve heard. Then there were the Thénardiers (Martin Ball and Sophie-Louise Dann). These roles always add comic relief, surprising for characters so vile, and this occasion did not disappoint. Eponine has always been my favourite, though, so I was delighted with the excellent vocals from Tegan Bannister while Will Richardson was also in good form as Enjolras.

A couple of downsides with the show itself: I did wonder why Eponine changed ethnicity during puberty and it would also have been nice to know which child performers were in the roles on the night. Plus, the consequences of the barricade battle were a let-down without the revolving stage to reveal a tableau of broken bodies on the other side.

The touring production of Les Misérables was directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell while musical supervision and direction was in the hands of Stephen Brooker, Graham Hurman and Ben Atkinson.

So, which is better, the version in the West End or this one? If, I’m honest, I’d opt for the former, but this was still a fantastic show which I highly recommend.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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