After a year long play in Melbourne and short stint in Perth, musical classic Les Miserables hits the Capitol Theatre in Sydney after over a decade since it last played in the city.
With the original production in London being famous for its use of revolving stage, this new 2010 re-imagination lacks the gravitas of the original show, but the music at the heart of the story still hits high and bring out the tissues in droves. Part of the update is a re-orchestrated score that is more modern and less old-school musical theatre. There is also new sliding screens, bulky sets and a video projector on the back of the stage to immerse audiences in the play. This aspect in particular is an addition to lift the production value for mainstream audiences and make the stage show experience more contemporary and interactive, but ultimately feels fake and unnecessary.
Strangely, the opening sequence of Jean Valjean’s leaving of prison and reinvention, is faster pace than originally conceived and the show feels rushed at times, likely aiming to avoid the cloying sentimentality that musicals are known for. It means that the moments after ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ and ‘On My Own’ are less of a reprieve from the emotion of the song and don’t respect the power of the song – instead opting to just “get it over with”.
However, as with any stage performance, the success of the musical relies with the cast. And we are in good company with this one. Simon Gleeson is truly fantastic as Valjean, poignant and emotional. His rendition of ‘Bring Him Home’ is easily one of the best ones performed on Australian soil in years and easily expresses his feelings without compromising the beautiful score. There is definitely a Helpmann nomination in his future. Hayden Tee is also flawless as Javert, who is equally as vocally powerful as Gleeson, a rare instance in most professional productions.
Other supporting roles are also relatively good. Euan Doige’s Marius is not the best around, and could do with some more perfecting of acting and singing. Patrice Tipoki is unforgettable as Fantine and sets a high standard early on. Kerry Anne Greenland is equally as soulful and cutting edge as Eponine, who puts her all in for her swan song ‘A Little Fall of Rain’. Emily Langridge is solid as Cosette, a role that traditionally lacks interest and heart and Chris Durling is excellent as Enjolras. I hope he appears in more productions in the future. And lastly but not least, Lara Mulahy and Trevor Ashley are laugh out loud hilarious as the comic due the Thenardiers, and the sense of cohesiveness is felt and well appreciated.
Few amazing productions come through Sydney’s doors, so don’t miss out on the beauty of Les Miserables. It’s not for everyone, but the incredible cast and crew of the show make it one well worth it.