REVIEW: Les Miserables, Sondheim Theatre

The music and story soars in this beautiful production that brings Victor Hugo’s original story vividly to life.

Ok deep breath. I have a confession to make – this was the first time that I have experienced Les Miserables on stage despite saying for years how much I wanted to see it – was it worth the wait? Absolutely.

Co-directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell, Les Miserables is filled with lavish detail that enhances the powerful nature of Claude-Michel Schonberg’s music and Herbert Kretzmer’s lyrics. In particular, the way in which ‘The ABC Cafe/Red and Black’ sequence smoothly transits into ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’ is a really powerful moment in the show and takes the show up until another level. The performances in this scene alone are mesmerisingly powerful, while Mick Potter’s sound design and Paule Constable’s lighting design during the attack of the barricades really enhances the fear and danger of the scene beautifully.

Yes it is a rather long show, but time seems to pass almost to quickly thanks the well judged way in which the story has been paced – and again it is credit to all those involved with the production that ensure that the story is still as captivating to watch at the end as much as it is at the beginning. Even with certain moments being lingered over (quite rightly so) – the way in which ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ ends for example allowing the audience to thoroughly absorb what they just heard is beautiful or during ‘Turning’ that lingers on the widows who have lost loved ones – the important moments are excellently highlighted.

There are so many beautiful moments to be enjoyed about this production – with the quieter moments really standing out visually. The way in which scenes such as the epilogue at the end is framed – complete with low and intimate lighting ensures that the audience is thoroughly invested with the music, the characters and the emotion of the scene. Equally powerful is the way in which ‘A Little Fall of Rain’ has been staged – even sitting right at the back of the theatre the grief, pain and love conveyed in that moment is truly palpable.

Throughout it all the elaborate nature of Matt Kinley’s set design really draws the audience in, and every transition between scenes are absolutely seamless, while the projections used for the sewers scene is impressive and realistic.

But of course given how demanding the story and songs are for Les Miserables, it is incredibly important to have a strong cast to convincingly bring the characters to life – which is of course not a problem at the moment. This exceptional cast deliver plenty of passion, engaging performances and heartfelt vocals that impress throughout. Chanice Alexander-Burnett is divine as Fantine – delivering one of the most raw performances of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ that I have ever heard that left me in floods of tears. Bradley Jaden was a compelling and intense Javert – really conveying the character’s determination and obsession with arresting Jean Valjean with great intensity and delivering a beautiful performance of ‘Stars’. But he is also well matched with Luke McCall as Jean Valjean who really shows how the character begins to change and develop with great grace and charm – his rendition of ‘Bring him Home’ is one I will remember for a long time. But all of the cast deliver memorable performances.

A powerful and memorable production with plenty to offer – no matter how many times you see it. A true classic indeed.

By Emma Clarendon

Les Miserables  continues to play at the Sondheim Theatre. To book tickets visit: From the Box Office, London Theatre Direct, Love, Theatre Tickets Direct, See Tickets or Last

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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