A glorious and musically powerful staged concert version of the beloved musical that manages to maintain the drama.
Released on digital download given the current lockdown in place, this 2019 concert version of Les Miserables ran at the Gielgud Theatre while the musical’s home transformed from the Queen’s Theatre to the Sondheim Theatre is rousing celebration of what makes it so popular.
Directed for the screen by Nick Morris, there are plenty of clever camera angles and shots used that really enhance the sense of drama as seen through the moments in which the barricade falls. Meanwhile, the editing by Tim Thompsett poignantly and cleverly captures the more intimate moments in songs such as ‘On My Own’ and ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ for example.
As a show itself, even from watching it on a screen it has a feeling of intimacy and power with each scene moving seamlessly. In particular, hearing and watching ‘One Day More’ felt like an extraordinary moment in the show, as the cast perform with such passion and dedication (which they consistently do but particularly highlighted here) that really sweeps the audience into the heart of the story.
However, of course the staging does have its limitations, particularly with regards to the cast having to consistently perform to the front that doesn’t really allow for as much character interaction, excepting when it is absolutely necessary – including Javert and Jean Valjean’s confrontations.
But it can not be denied that despite this the drama and power of the story is still effectively maintained – even if it is presented in a vastly different way than those who have seen the show countless times perhaps expected. By doing it in a concert style, it allows the audience to see the story and characters in a very different light, highlighted particularly in moments such as Javert’s suicide that is presented with heartbreaking tenderness.
There are some really spectacular performances that make me really quite envious not to have seen it live. Bradley Jaden as Enjolras delivers such a passionate and intense performance that really captures the audience’s attention as he attempts to lead his friends into making changes in the world for the common people but ultimately leading them to their deaths. Elsewhere, Carrie Hope Fletcher offers a delicate performance as Fantine with a hint of steel behind it that is beautiful to watch, Michael Ball as Javert and Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean also impress with their powerful interpretations of both characters. Their performances of ‘Stars’ and ‘Bring Him Home’ are two real highlights of the show.
Meanwhile, Matt Lucas and Katy Secombe as the Thénardiers offer some real comic relief as the less than charming couple. Their rendition of ‘Master of the House’ is gleefully enjoyable and it is easy to see how much they were enjoying themselves. Rob Houchen also offers a strong and thoughtful performance as Marius – usually considered a character that hasn’t got much to backbone – but here Houchen offers a charismatic character caught up in a situation out of his control.
Overall, it is an immensely enjoyable take on a classic and a wonderful way to celebrate the glorious music of this long running musical. The cast were absolutely spot on in their passion and dedication to the characters, while the orchestra brought the score powerfully to life. If you didn’t manage to catch this particular version on stage, it is well worth a watch.
By Emma Clarendon
Les Miserables: The Staged Concert is available to download now.