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Les Miserables - Review

Updated: Apr 23

“Les Misérables” holds the title of being the longest-running musical on the West End, and rightfully so. Its popularity can be attributed to the timeless allure of its straightforward yet compelling story, coupled with its unforgettable operatic melodies. However, in recent years, “Les Mis” has undergone a modern transformation, bringing it into the 21st century.  


Les Miserables
Cast on stage at the Sondheim Theatre

Whether you are familiar with the film or have read Victor Hugo’s novel, the plot of “Les Misérables” is undoubtedly ingrained in popular culture. However, if you’ve managed to avoid the story, then thank you for crawling from underneath your rock to read this review. This production boasts a treasure trove of remarkable vocal performance form the entire cast, each delivering operatic renditions that should send chills down your spine. However, despite the cast’s vocal ability, the sound leaves much to be desired. The production suffers from compressed and limited audio, where both whispered moments and belted notes lack any dynamic range, resulting in a flat tonality that does not capture the orchestra’s grand crescendos, leaving the sound feeling lacklustre and devoid of life. 

 

The set and costumes are nothing short of spectacular, offering historically correct representations that aid the storytelling. They cleverly convey shifts in time periods and the turmoil unfolding onstage. Additionally, the modernisation efforts introduced an array of lighting and projections that breathe new life into the musical. However, while these updates undoubtedly enhance the visual spectacle, there’s a sense that the production is veering away from its operatic roots in favour of conforming to a more conventional musical aesthetic. While adaptation and evolution are essential for staying relevant, some may argue that these changes dilute the essence of “Les Misérables”.  


Les Miserables
Still from the musical

 

Earning well-deserved acclaim, Milan Van Waardenburg delivers a standout performance as Jean Valjean, the convict-turned-mayor, in a portrayal that resonates with raw emotion and depth. His rendition of the iconic song “Bring Him Home” stands as one of the best versions I’ve heard. Surprisingly, another highlight for me was Gavroche by a young actor, whose name wasn’t listed in clear sight. Despite my usual reservations about child actors, his character was full of charm and cheekiness.  

 

The audience enthusiastically embraced the beloved classics “On My Own,” “I Dreamed a Dream,” and “Empty Chairs.” However, this shifted during the more choral numbers, with some members engaging in chatter — a reflection, perhaps, of the diverse audience the show draws in. Several standout performances appeared in the show — Lulu-Mae Pears delivers such a pure vocal to the role of Cosette, Katie Hal nailed the role of Fantine, and Amena El-Kindy brought the house down as Eponine. It was nice to see such a young cast in this musical. A moment that I will take home is the fantastic battle scene over the barricade, the stage lighting, choreography, and performance of the actors we sublime. It really was an excellent moment.  


Les Miserables
A moment from the streets in France

Everything considered this show is very much standard. It is as you would expect for something with its longevity on the West End, you cannot fault its story, the talents of the actors, and the excellent job the creative team have done to revitalise the play. That said, for me, someone who studied and is obsessed with theatre sound and its effect on the audience — the manipulations to the sound and volume really did cause the moments that should have been spine-tingling pieces of excellence to be quite good moments that we, the audience, just smiled at. Les Misérables is performed at the Sondheim Theatre, London, and in several other locations around the world. 

 


Les Miserable
Show artwork

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