Les Misérables comes to Milton Keynes Theatre and will have us starting a revolution for one day more as seeing this epic masterpiece once is not enough. Les Misérables is an outstanding piece of theatre and what I consider proper theatre. The story is layered; the characters are deep and interesting and the songs truly rousing. The year is 1832. Jean Valjean, stole a loaf of bread and spent 19 years in prison, is now on parole but is still troubled. Javert, is an honourable policeman who has the attitude that once a thief, always a thief believes that Valjean will once again return to custody. Valjean is shown some kindness by a church minister and from then vows to turn his life around. Assuming a new identity, he becomes successful employer. Unbeknown to him, a young lady, Fantine, in his employment loses her job as the others don’t like her and feel jealous of her looks and attention from the foreman. She is thrown out into the streets where life is hard. She worries about her daughter, Cosette, who she has left with the Thénardiers who are innkeepers. They have a daughter, Éponine, who they give everything to and treat Cosette as a modern-day Cinderella. Fantine sends money but now she is on the streets she has none. She is about to be arrested when Valjean intercedes and promises to take care of Cosette if anything happens to Fantine. As the story unfolds, you see that Jean Valjean isn’t just a thief and that Javert isn’t always on the right path. Life just isn’t that black and white.
Les Mis has a fabulous soundtrack including One Day More, Bring Him Home, Who Am I?, Lovely Ladies, I Dreamed a Dream and Do You Hear the People Sing? The show has technically been re-imagined in a new version and I found it very striking. I loved the use of graphics and lighting to give a depth to the sets without losing any of its charm. I didn’t miss the rotating stage at all – in fact I would go so far as to say this is the best version of Les Mis I have ever seen, including the West End. Every scene was breath-taking and the sets were truly amazing.
Killian Donnelly is no stranger to the role of Jean Valjean having previously played it in the West End and is simply superb in the role. His emotions and journey are etched on his face and his beautiful tenor voice is just sublime. He gave us everything - we could not ask for more. Javert is a steadfast policeman with a set attitude. Played by Nic Greenshields, he gives the role a gravitas and we understand that he completely believes in the letter of the law. When this faith is questioned, Nic plays it that we actually feel for him, and the torment he must be feeling.
Fantine is played by Katie Hall and is innocent and sweet in the role. Her voice is pure and I dreamed a dream was full of hope and yearning. Her daughter, Cosette is played by Bronwen Hanson and is beautiful and innocent to the atrocities of the world. She innocently falls in love with Marcus after one accidental meeting. The chemistry between Bronwen and Shane O-Riordan who plays Marcus during tonight’s performance was palpable. They certainly are sweet on each other and you want it to work out for them. The young Cosette was played by Willow Rawlings and she was just fantastic as she sings Castle On A Cloud. Éponine is played by Tegan Bannister and her portrayal of Éponine is moving. When Cosette and Éponine are small you may not feel that sorry for Éponine but once grown, her feelings for Marcus are not returned but still she would do anything for him. The Thénardiers are local innkeepers who have looked after Cosette during Fantine’s absence. They not really nice people and steal from their own customers. However, they are indeed the light entertainment as their roles have humour in what is otherwise, a really dark dramatic piece of theatre. The whole cast are extraordinary, but I must give a special mention to Joseph Sheppard who plays Gavroche during tonight’s performance. His portrayal was exceptional and his fearless attitude and artful dodger swagger made the audience take him to their hearts.
Finally, I need to say I have never experienced an audience like this – after every song/scene the applause was rapturous and went on much longer than is normally the case. Of course, there was a well-deserved standing ovation at the end of the night from every single member of the audience - many in tears from such an emotional performance. The audience is always the barometer to any show which makes this show a knock-out.
Set against the backdrop of the French revolution, this story is moving and inspiring in equal measure. It’s not about rich or poor, it’s about heart and bravery. It’s about love and hate. It’s about life and death. This dramatic musical will have you crying and singing. You will feel a part of the revolution so make sure you beg, steal or borrow a ticket to get to this show. This phenomenal show is the gold standard of musicals.
Les Misérables is at Milton Keynes Theatre from Tuesday 14th May – Saturday 8th June 2019
Best Availability Monday to Thursday performances. Call the theatre’s dedicated Les Misérables booking line on 01908 547669 (open Monday to Saturday, 12 – 6pm) or visit: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/les-miserables/milton-keynes-theatre/. Check daily for returns and last minute ticket releases.