Les Misérables is at Milton Keynes Theatre and for longer than one day more. This epic masterpiece is an outstanding piece of theatre and it doesn’t matter how many times you have seen it; you want to go again. It feels especially poignant in current times. Set against the backdrop of the French revolution, the story is layered; the characters are deep and interesting and the songs truly rousing. The year is 1832. Jean Valjean is on parole after 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. Javert, is an honourable policeman who has the attitude that once a thief, always a thief believes that Valjean is a bad sort. Valjean is shown some kindness by a church minister and 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 and is thrown out into the streets. She worries about her daughter, Cosette, who she has left with the Thénardiers. Fantine is about to be arrested when Valjean intercedes and promises to take care of Cosette. 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 that will have you humming for days afterwards, including One Day More, Bring Him Home, Who Am I? I Dreamed A Dream, Master Of The House and Do You Hear the People Sing? The show is spectacular and the sets are truly amazing. The use of graphics and lighting gives a gravatas and depth that give the stage a 3D feel. From the moment the opening scene greets us with its waves and ship as the company sing Look Down, it takes your breath away.
Tonight’s performance of Jean Valjean was played by Will Barratt and he is superb in the role. His beautiful tenor voice is just sublime. Javert is a steadfast policeman with a set attitude. Nic Greenshields gives the role humility as well as his serious demeanour. I have seen him in this role in 2019 and he has grown into it so well he is easily my all-time favourite Javert. Fantine is played by Katie Hall and is innocent and sweet in the role. I dreamed a dream was full of hope and yearning.
Will Callan who plays Marius was perfect in the role. Handsome and with that young determination of love that I have not seen in many playing Marius, Will is making his professional debut in Les Misérables but watch this space; he is a star in the making. His love interest, Cosette is played by Paige Blankson who has perfect diction and an operatic voice to match. It highlights the difference in upbringing between Cosette and Eponine. Éponine is played by Nathania Ong and her portrayal of Éponine is moving and especially her delivery of On My Own, which had me in tears.
The innkeepers can provide light relief to what otherwise, a really dark dramatic piece of theatre, so thank goodness for Ian Hughes as Thénardier and Helen Walsh as Madame Thénardier. Their comic timing is perfect and between them they steal every scene they are in. There was a moment when Ian just stood next to Nic (Javert) and without saying anything the difference in their heights made it funny. Ian is exceptional and my favourite ever Thénardier. Helen has an amazing voice and her Madame Thénardier is just brilliant. The whole cast are extraordinary, in fact I have seen this show many times, including the West End versions, but this cast is easily the best I have witnessed. Outstanding performances from everyone. The barometer of a good show is always the audience. And there was a well-deserved standing ovation at the end of the night from every single member of the audience but I feel the standing ovation could have gone on much longer than was allowed. The audience clearly want the performers to know how much we loved the show and this phenomenal show is the gold standard of musicals.
I know I love Les Misérables, but until you go, you forget how much you love it. I loved it more than I was expecting. It’s such a passionate piece of theatre and one of the best things you will ever see in your life. Trust me, you will feel a part of the revolution so make sure storm the barricades for a ticket.
Les Misérables is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 21 May 2022