Newest Review: ... round and round all evening. I did enjoy it and was glad I saw it, but think I was expecting more. Les Miserables is currently on at t... more
Classic musical, classic songs - a great theatre experience
Member Name: Neenawneenaw
Advantages: Great songs, impressive production
Disadvantages: Some wet characters and expected sentimentality; too much plot crammed in!
Finally taken to see Les Mis last week after years of promises/threats by Mr Neenaw. Now people who like this musical really seem to love it - it was not the first time most people in our party had seen it (cept me!) and for one of us it was no. 4!
As lots and lots of people know, Les Mis is a long-running musical based on Victor Hugo's novel set in early 19th century France. I don't want to spend the whole review on the plot, but essentially it centres around ex-con and parole abscondee Jean Valjean and his attempts to build a worthwhile life, Javert - the man in life-long pursuit of the criminal, and social unrest and revolt in post-revolutionary France.
The musical itself is very good of its kind. I can be a bit sentiment-phobic (give me Sweeney Todd over Miss Saigon any day!) and as such I was probably about the only dry eye in the house at the end. However, the ensemble pieces focussing on the barricades are truly stirring, while the comedic elements featuring the cynical, surviving Thenardiers are a total winner. Valjean and Javert are strong central characters who invest meaning into their tugging on the heart strings. The most disappointing characters for me are Marius and Cosette, the young romantic ones - both a bit wet! Epinine, with her unrequited love for Marius, is a much stronger part.
However, here it's hard to totally separate the parts from the actors and production. In the production I saw at the Queens theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue Epinine really stood out, whereas the actors playing Marius and Cosette were rather bland.
The production makes great use of the stage - it's apparently smaller and feels more intimate than its previous venue at Cambridge Circus, and concensus was that it worked rather well. The barricades are particularly well done - with a virtuoso live slow motion battle sequence a highlight.
As already mentioned, there's a lot of plot, and for me the musical really suffers by having to condense what must be a really dense source! There are character actions and jumps in plot which make very little sense, and I'm sure it's due to necessary abridgement from the novel.
And the songs? Well, you probably know half of them already! On the whole, they're brilliant, with Epinine's 'I love him' and the comic 'Master of the House' my personal faves.
I was genuinely pleasantly surprised - while there is plenty of sentimentality, there's also characters you care about, an impressive production, a sense of humour and songs that are still buzzing round in my head a week later!
Summary: There's a reason it's been playing for ever!