Every musical fan within the UK is either stuck indoors or working hard as a key worker right now. With theatres being closed, some are finding it difficult to transpose over to the new online content that theatres and producers are supplying, and just want to be in a theatre enjoying their favourite show. One recorded production which many have been looking forward to, long before isolation, is the 2019 Les Misérables recorded concert. After finding myself in dire need of a musical theatre fill, I purchased the digital release of the concert to see how this compares to the five-star musical it represents.
The story of Les Misérables follows Jean Valjean, a prisoner, who breaks parole in order to start life anew. He soon becomes the caretaker of a young girl but his past comes back to catch up with him.
Alfie Boe is outstanding as Jean Valjean. His voice is one which radiates power and emotion. During ‘Bring Him Home’ his operatic vibrato leaves the audience/viewer entranced by the control and skill executed. His performance within this production doesn’t only trump his 25th anniversary concert performance because of a better portrayal but also because of the great dynamic between Boe and his longtime friend Ball. The former Marius, Michael Ball supplies a surprisingly dark presence and perfect vocals as Javert. At first this casting was surprising to myself as I didn’t believe the character would suit Ball, however, I could not have been more wrong, this is champagne casting. Michael’s rendition of ‘Stars’ is performed with such confidence and prowess, the standing ovation at the end of the number is deserved.
Carrie Hope Fletcher gives us a heartbreaking performance as Fantine. ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ is one of the most tear-jerking and poignant numbers within musical theatre history. Fletcher’s performance of this iconic song is perfection, she delivers in radiating raw emotion while proving her superb vocal control. Shan Ako debuts in the role which made Carrie Hope Fletcher a West End star. Ako’s portrayal of Eponine is subtle and believable. This character can sometimes be overacted and all subtleties are removed. However, Ako does well to make this character natural, and allow Herbert Kretzmer’s impeccable lyrics speak for themselves. Ako’s rendition of ‘On My Own’ packs a punch and leaves a lump in the strongest of audience member’s throat.
Matt Lucas has made Thenardier his own, this character was already one half of the comic relief within this overall dark musical. However, Lucas has come in and supplied a very contemporized take on this much-loved character. Not only is his acting suited to this role, but his singing voice is strong enough to deliver a superb performance of ‘Master of the House’. Lucas arguably gives us the best portrayal of this character. Accompanying Lucas is Katy Secombe giving her outrageously funny portrayal of Madame Thenardier. Secombe matches Lucas in contemporizing this character and giving a fresh spin on the brash Madame Thenardier. Both of these performers radiate humour and outrageousness throughout their appearances on stage, the audience love it.
Lily Kerhoas makes her west end debut as Cosette. The journey we see this character go on within this production is adapted and much less of a highlight than within the stage musical. However, Kerhoas delivers in portraying this character gently and radiates the heart of gold that comes with this character. There is also a certain strength that Kerhoas provides which is unseen within the normal production. This is a very promising debut for this skillful actress. Rob Houchen as Marius gives us possibly the best rendition of ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’. The emotion that is portrayed aptly by Houchen in this scene really furthers the devastation, and even though within this production, we do not properly see the characters deaths, the mourning by Marius within this number is delivered appropriately by Houchen leaving the audience devastated with him.
Bradley Jaden as Enjolras supplies fantastic vocals and great energy for this ambitious character. ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’ is led brilliantly by this young actor who shows great promise and quite rightly so lands the role of Javert in the new west end production of Les Miserables. There is even the stunning duet between Jaden and Ball of ‘Stars’ at the end of the recording. It is breathtaking.
The cast is completed by the stupendous ensemble of; Rosanna Bates, Adam Bayjou, Ciarán Bowling, Simon Bowman, Oliver Brenin, Earl Carpenter, Vinny Coyle, Samantha Dorsey, Tamsin Dowsett, Nicola Espallardo, Celia Graham, Barnaby Hughes, Holly-Anne Hull, Oliver Jackson, Christopher Jacobsen, Gavin James, Will Jennings, Ciaran Joyce, Katie Kerr, Sarah Lark, Joanna Loxton, Craig Mather, Stephen Matthews, James Nicholson, Rosa O’Reilly, Claire Parrish, Sophie Reeves, Grainne Renihan, Leo Roberts, Raymond Walsh, Gemma Wardle and Andrew York.
The last performance mention is the one which is simply stunning. There is in fact a union of the Jean Valjeans, we see Alfie Boe perform ‘Bring Him Home’ with his superb understudy, plus 25th Anniversary Jean Valjean, John Owen-Jones, not only that but they are accompanied by previous Valjean Dean Chisnall, UK touring Valjean Killian Donnelly and current Valjean in the West End Jon Robyns. Honestly, what a superb additional finale.
This production has a massive creative team behind it, in making sure that the concert is just as successful as the musical itself and that it is an accurate representation. Of course, producer Cameron MacKintosh’s quality control ensures that this production is in safe hands. Directors Jean-Pierre Van Der Spuy and James Powell do well in transferring the musical into a concert format. As much as it reminisces the new production, it does have its own entity at points, however that does not take away from the production, it merely emphasizes how special it is. Claude-Michel Schönberg’s book/music and Herbert Kretzmer’s lyrics have never sounded better, the cast within this production do them such justice and Stephen Brooker’s orchestrations are at points spine chilling.
Overall, this production is the highlight of theatre related content that has come out within the last month. This production of Les Misérables is simply stunning. And what’s even better is that part of your payment towards the digital copy (current only release format) goes towards helping charities, during this difficult time. I would highly recommend you purchase this unbelievable production. It will definitely fill your theatrical needs!
Written by Lewis C. Baird
Check out the Les Misérables website for where this digital release is available: