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
Wonderful, amazing, superb - Les Misérables
Member Name: Julie_Reilly
Date: 28/09/11, updated on 28/09/11 (21 review reads)
51 Shaftesbury Avenue
London W1D 6BA
0870 950 0930
First of all, I LOVE this show, so this will be a very effusive review! I was introduced to Les Mis by my music teacher who took us on a school trip to see it when I was 16. I have since seen it 7 further times professionally and one amateur production by under 18s.
I have got the 10th anniversary DVD and the 25th anniversary Blu-ray. So I think you can safely say I'm a bit of a Les Mis nut!
I have run my own school trip to see it a few years ago - the kids I took loved it as well - yay for new Les Mis converts! I took my daughter to see an amateur production locally and she loved it so much I said I would take her to London to see it for her tenth birthday. My Dad also came with us, and it is this visit this review is about.
We went on the 6th August 2011 and were disappointed to find out that this was not one of Alfie Boe's nights - it would have been nice to see him, as he is a local lad! But we had Matt Lucas and I had heard good things about Jonathan Williams.
There are only three cubicles in the ladies toilets and in the short time it took me to find our seats, dump our snacks and walk back up to the toilets for the regulatory pre-show visit, the queue was trailing round the corner! It took 15 minutes till it was my turn. I don't think anyone missed the beginning of the show - but it might be an idea to get there early.
We had seats on the front row of the dress circle and my daughter had to get TWO booster cushions to enable her to see over the rather tall barrier designed to prevent us from falling into the stalls. Even my Dad went and got himself one - he's not awfully tall - bless him! But once sufficiently boosted, everyone in our little party could see the stage.
The show was absolutely fantastically amazing. Jonathan Williams was an incredibly sombre and desperate Valjean at the start, which made his transformation even more poignant. Matt Lucas was hilarious as comedy villain Thénardier,and the producers added a few tweaks to take advantage of his wonderful comic talent. Hadley Fraser was a compellingly fierce Javert and Alexia Khadime a stunning Eponine. I'm not sure who the little boy who played Gavroche was, but he was fantastic! Really stole every scene.
My daughter and my Dad both loved the three-hour show and obviously I loved it - again! I could watch this show every night of my life and never get bored of it. The music is amazing, the scenery is spectacular, the actors are dazzling - there are simply not enough superlatives to describe this extraordinary show. Take tissues! It will make you laugh and cry and clap so hard your hands sting. At the end, the entire audience rose on their feet as one to give the cast a well-deserved standing ovation.
Go to see Les Mis. You won't regret it!
If you don't want to know the story in advance, don't read the synopsis.
Jean Valjean has been imprisoned for the last nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. He is released on parole, but no one will employ him or give him lodging. He is taken in by a kindly Bishop, who he repays by stealing his silver. When the Bishop lies to the police and allows him to go free, he is overcome by remorse and humility and vows to be a new man. He breaks his parole and goes on the run.
Eighty years on and he is the Mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer and a factory owner. A factory worker, Fantine, has an illegitimate child, Cosette, who lives with the Thénardiers, a pair of cruel innkeepers, who treat her like a slave and extort money out of Fantine who believes her daughter is ill and dying. She is found out and sacked by the lecherous foreman whose advances she has rejected and, destitute and desperate, she turns to prostitution. She becomes ill, is attacked by a prospective client and eventually dies in hospital, but not before wrenching a promise from Jean Valjean that he will care for her daughter.
Meanwhile, Inspector Javert has been hunting for the prisoner who broke parole ten years ago. When he sees Valjean rescue a badly injured man from a runaway cart, he is put in mind of the incredible strength of the prisoner who escaped. But, Javert says, Monsieur le Maire cannot be Valjean as they have found him and he comes to court today. Valjean cannot bear to see an innocent man punished for his crimes and confesses that he is the man Javert is looking for. He and Javert fight in the hospital and Valjean escapes.
Valjean travels to the evil Thénardiers' inn where they are abusing Cosette and rescues her, paying 1,500 francs. Valjean and Cosette flee to Paris.
Ten years later, the Thénardiers are also living in Paris with Eponine, their true daughter. She is in love with Marius, a student. His friends are disaffected with the government and are planning an uprising. The Thénardiers plot to rob Valjean in the street, but when they accost him, Thénardier recognises him as being the man who took Cosette ten years previously. Marius and Cosette bump into each other in the kerfuffle and fall instantly in love. Javert appears and breaks up the scene, but Valjean and Cosette run away without being seen. Javert suspects that he may be Jean Valjean and swears to catch him.
Gavroche, a street urchin and friend to the students, overhears Javert and knows who he is - an important detail for a later plot development.
Marius persuades Eponine to find where Cosette lives but while they are vowing their love for each other in the garden, Thénardier appears with his gang to rob the house. Eponine warns them with a scream and Valjean thinks it is Javert come to arrest him. He decides to pack and run away to England the next day.
Meanwhile the students plan their uprising for the next day also, to coincide with the funeral of General Lamarque, the only people-friendly politician.
The students erect their barricade and Javert pretends to join them, offering to spy on the troops, but really he is there to spy on them. Gavroche recognises him and gives him away. The students tie him up, planning on dealing with him later.
Marius asks Eponine to take a love letter to Cosette, which she does, but Valjean intercepts it, reads it and, realising that Cosette and Marius are in love, changes his plans and joins the rebels on the barricade. Eponine is shot returning to the barricade and dies in Marius' arms. After the first attack, Valjean saves Enjolras' life (the student leader) and wins his trust. He asks to be allowed to 'take care' of the spy Javert and, thinking Valjean will shoot Javert, Enjolras allow it. But Valjean releases Javert and lets him escape, even telling him his address where he can be found, if he survives the night. As the rebels sleep, Valjean prays to God to keep Marius safe.
There is another attack the next day. Gavroche is killed retrieving bullets from the soldiers' pouches. All the others except Valjean and Marius are killed. Valjean drags an injured Marius into the sewers where Thénardier is robbing the bodies. Valjean collapses under Marius' weight and, while he is resting, Thénardier robs Marius, thinking he is dead.
Javert confronts Valjean in the sewers and Valjean begs to be allowed to take Marius to the hospital. Javert agrees begrudgingly and then, unable to live in a world where a criminal could have compassion and be a good man, he commits suicide by jumping into the Seine.
After the rebellion is over, the lost students are mourned by the townspeople and by a recovering Marius, who is with Cosette, but does not know who rescued him. Valjean confesses his past to Marius and says he has to leave, making Marius promise never to tell Cosette the truth.
Cosette and Marius are married and, at the wedding breakfast, the Thénardiers appear and try to bribe Marius, saying that they have proof Cosette's father is a criminal, showing a ring that Thénardier took off a 'corpse' that Valjean was dragging through the sewers. Marius recognises his own ring and realises it was Valjean who had saved him. He grabs Cosette and rushes to the house, where Valjean is dying of a broken heart through his utter despair at losing Cosette forever. He begs God to take him now and the spirit of Fantine appears saying he has led a good life and will be with God.
Cosette and Marius burst in and Valjean is happy that he will see Cosette again before he dies. Tearfully, Cosette forbids him to die and he says he will try to obey. But it is too late; the spirits of Fantine, Eponine and the students come to take him to Heaven and he joins them as Cosette sobs at his passing.
(this review has also appeared on ciao.co.uk)