(original image from http://www.facebook.com/LesMisOz)
Finally found some time to quietly sit down and reflect on the past six months when Les Miserables took over Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne and the experience, observations and memories it has created. I have never seen the live stage version of Les Mis (I missed the first Australian production that ran from 1987 to 1991 because I wasn’t born yet when it started and I was only three when it finished). By the time I was old enough to enjoy and appreciate the art of the musical, there weren’t any major productions running; or if there were, I somehow missed them as well. The closest to a live performance for me was the 25th anniversary DVD and so when it was announced last year that Les Mis would return to Australia and begin its tour in Melbourne in 2014, I knew I had to jump at this opportunity and make sure I go see it. I knew Les Mis has a great reputation and would no doubt be spectacular but I never anticipated this production to be so perfect in every way, it exceeded far beyond all expectations.
I won’t go into much details on how many times I ended up seeing the show – ok, it was eight or nine – but before you start judging, let me explain. This production has impeccably combined a powerful stellar cast along with new brilliant staging, astounding visuals and projections including clever incorporation of Victor Hugo’s drawings; thus enthralling and captivating the audience, making it easy for us to fall completely head over heels in love and triggering the desire to watch the show multiple times. If anyone were to ask what the highlight was for the show, I can honestly say there wasn’t one because every scene delivered; every song sung are highlights thanks to the superb and riveting performances of the cast and orchestra as well as the great support of the backstage crew. The whole cast’s performances were exceptional; they all complemented each other with their vocals intertwining perfectly together; it’s almost like being able to see everyone’s vocals waltzing elegantly around the stage together.
Words simply can’t describe fully how outstanding and spectacular the cast’s performances are. As I sit here reminiscing the show and their performances, I’m finding that there is a certain level of difficulty in finding the perfect words or form the right sentences to describe their performances. Despite this level of difficulty, I’m going to give it a crack anyway; I don’t think they are anywhere close to giving enough credit to how brilliant the performances are but at least it’s somewhat a start. Simon Gleeson as Jean Valjean and Hayden Tee as Javert are an ace combination and simply perfection. Their flawless performances and powerful vocals are breathtakingly wonderful; they’re basically a beautiful theatre match made in heaven as they fitted and balanced each other’s performance from start to finish. Their renditions of Valjean and Javert are absolutely divine; in fact, they’re so magnificent in their roles that they often (figuratively speaking) would leave me breathless and feeling a little lightheaded – Ok, I could go on and on but I think I’ve made my point and have achieved in making them blush so I’ll stop now.
It goes without saying that the other main cast members were all absolutely fantabulous. Patrice Tipoki’s portrayal of the tragedy-stricken Fantine is heart-warming, heartbreaking and heart wrenching to watch (I basically melted into a messy puddle of tears by the end of her final scene); Trevor Ashley and Lara Mulcahy’s cheeky and memorable rendition of Monsieur and Mme Thenardier kept everyone thoroughly entertained ; Kerrie Anne Greenland as Éponine with her effortlessly incredible and beautiful vocals; Euan Doidge as Marius and Emily Langridge as Cosette puts faith back into love at first sight as they showcased strong chemistry in their performances with beautifully entwined vocals in their songs; this main cast list would not be complete without mentioning Chris Durling’s brilliant performance as Enjolras, with his overloading charisma and shining stage presence (pretty sure I heard loud swooning follow by massive amounts of fainting in the audience every time he comes on stage). Special mentions have to also go to the entire ensemble and swing cast as well. Without them, Les Mis wouldn’t have been as grand and amazing as it is. I was lucky enough to see some of the ensembles take up their understudied roles during the numerous times I saw the show and by George! They were amazing. With that said, I would like to particularly commend a few who have caught my attention every time they were on stage: Luke Joslin was brilliant in his portrayal as a large variety of characters; particularly Grantaire, Bamatabois and the wedding scene herald/ guest announcer/wedding and cake security (I actually don’t know what that character role is called…but I assume you all know who I’m referring to). Whether he was required to act as a sceptic drunk mean/brutal (almost sadistic), or just plain humorous, Joslin delivered and was very convincing in his roles. Daniel Belle for his impressive performance as Valjean understudy as well as his amazing singing as Prisoner 1 “The sun is strong, it’s hot as hell below” and any scenes involving him as Combeferre. Hugo Chiarella with his mesmerising vocals as Grantaire understudy, as well as the one absolutely swoon-worthy line “So you tell me every year” that he sings as one of Thenardier Inn’s guest; Zoy Frangos’ wonderful portrayal as the blind guest at Thenardier’s Inn, his extraordinarily deep and strong vocals which resulted in a memorable Feuilly as well as a very note-worthy Enjolras understudy. Lastly, special mentions also goes to Rob Mallett’s enthralling performance as bad boy Montparnasse, even though Montparnasse is only in a few scenes, Mallett manages to always capture the audience’s attention with his wonderful performances. As I mentioned before, all the ensemble casts were splendid and there are plenty more I could continue with but I’ll just name these few. I would be lying if I said it’s not sad to see Les Mis come to an end in Melbourne. Les Mis has not only given me the chance to watch amazing performances but it also gave me the opportunity to meet some exceptionally talented cast members who are genuinely beautiful inside and out. It was a bittersweet feeling seeing the cast after the final Melbourne show, especially when I know that there are a few performers who I may not see again for a long time since they’re based overseas. Even though it’s sad to see them go, I’m happy that they’re moving to other locations to spread the marvellousness that is Les Mis to every corners of Australia. Apologies for this being so lengthy, I guess I’ve forgotten to filter my thoughts.
To end this reminiscing note/essay, I would like to extend a massive thank you to all the cast for being so patient and for being so lovely and sweet; and to all the rest of the company, thank you for bringing Les Mis back to the Australian stage and for making the final show (well, for me, the final matinee) in Melbourne an absolute ball. I wish every single one of you all the very best for the rest of the Les Mis Oz run and also in everything that you do thereafter.
Head to the Les Miserables Australia website for more information on the tour, ticketing and everything else in between: www.lesmis.com.au/ (original image courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/LesMisOz?fref=ts)