Newest Review: ... and also have never paid more than £40 - £50 per seat for any other theatre show but for Les Mis you might have to spend a bit mor... more
Do you hear the people sing?
Member Name: DancingCopper
Advantages: The best show in the West End
Disadvantages: Can be booked up for a long time
I would class Les Miserables as one of the two biggest shows in the West End. This is based on longevity, quality of characters and music, scale, and how memorable the show is when you leave the theatre. The other is The Phantom of the Opera, although The Lion King is gaining on them.
Les Miserables (Les Mis) has been homed in different theatres in the West End for 23 years. That's an awfully long time - think about how long The Lord of the Rings lasted, and how you blinked and missed Gone with the Wind. It might not have had the lifespan of The Mouse Trap but, with all due respect, the only reason people see The Mouse Trap is to see why it's always been there.
Les Mis tells the story of Jean Valjean, a paroled convict struggling to live within the law. As the law is often harsh and unfair, he falls foul of it and is forced to turn fugitive. He is pursued by Javert, a police inspector, who spends years trying to track him down. The scenes where these two characters crackle with tension, and the hatred is conveyed superbly in the music. The relationship between Valjean and Javert calls into question the differing ideas of the Law, Justice and Morality. We actually pity both characters, one because he is hunted down, the other because he believes he is doing the right thing.
While the relationship between Valjean and Javert drives the action, others give the play its heart. As with so much of the play, it is a series of unfortunate events that see Valjean taking custody of a young girl, Cosette. This is the closest Valjean comes to a sense of domestic happiness, and again it is spoilt by Javert's pursuit.
This leads to Cosette's meeting a young, idealistic student, Marius. The two fall in love, but Marius is involved with a group of students, keen to start a new revolution. This idealistic, potentially dangerous, sense of right provides an interesting contrast to Javert's cold enforcement of the existing codes of law.
This all sounds quite heavy and dramatic, but there are some superb comic moments. Most of these are provided by the innkeeper, Monsieur Thenardier and his wife. Initially they are the guardians of Cosette, but following Valjean's intercession they recur as parasites thriving on the misfortunes and losses of others. Their brazen attempts at self-fulfilment are very funny and the song 'Master of the House' brings the House down!
People watch these epic musicals for their use of effects, as well as the music and narrative. Les Mis is a superb example of what it's possible to create in a theatre. The way scenery flies in from all directions and the way it famously morphs into the barricades during the revolution is spectacular.
The greatest element of the show has to be the music. The entire performance is sung, although Valjean did say the word 'Go' at one point, if you wanted to be REALLY pedantic about it! I've already touched on some of the comedic and dramatic numbers, but there are many others portraying the loneliness of childhood, love - both reciprocated and unrequited, and the determination of a sense of right.
Les Mis, more than any other musical, touches the audience emotionally. The characters are complicated, driven and often confused. The lyrics are intelligent and moving. The whole show is carried sumptuously on its music, from the first glimpse of French hardship to the last bow of the curtain call.
51 Shaftesbury Avenue
London, W1D 6BA
Tel: 0844 482 5160
Evenings at 7.30 Monday to Saturday
Matinees at 2.30 Wednesday and Saturday
The performance runs approximately 2 hours, 50 minutes which includes a 20 minute interval. Latecomers will not be admitted until a suitable break in the performance.
Stalls: £55.00 £42.50 £32.50 £25.00*
Dress Circle: £55.00 £42.50 £32.50 £25.00
Upper Circle : £42.50 £32.50 £20.00* £15.00*
* Restricted view
Summary: Victor Hugo's epic novel presented in a much easier and enjoyable way (I think)