Saturday, 14 January 2012

Theatre review -- Les Miserables -- London West End


Portrait of "Cosette" by Emile Bayard, from the original edition of Les Misérables (1862)

Normally I like to read a book before I see a movie, but this was not the case with Les Miserables. Although I have the book on my Kindle (it was a freebie when I first got my kindle), I have never read it I am ashamed to say. I will get around to it I'm sure.

I vaguely knew the story of Les Miserables, in that it was about a conflict that occurred some time after the French Revolution, but that was about it. I was quite intrigued as to how you could possibly make an enjoyable musical out of a subject so sombre. It was opened as a musical in 1980 in Paris at the Palais des Sports. Then in 1985 Cameron Mackintosh produced an English speaking version and it opened at the Barbican in London. In 1987 it opened on Broadway. In 201o it celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Well for some time now I have wanted to go and see it, out of intrigue and also from recommendation. I have a friend who has seen it 7 times, and cried each time.

My husband bought me tickets for my Birthday which was yesterday. We went off to London last Tuesday and booked into the London Waldorf. It was in the middle of a refurbishment, but it was still a beautiful hotel. More on that to come.....

After a lovely dinner at our hotel, we took a tube to Picadilly Circus and walked the 5 minutes to the Queens Theatre on Shaftsbury Avenue, to take our seats for Les Miserables.  We were in row D near the front, so had great seats..... Then the curtain rose.  Well the start was so dramatic. A dark scenery with men in dark costumes and a smoky atmosphere. The singing started and I was hooked. I have seen so many stage shows and this beats them all hands down. 

It is the story of Jean Valjean who has been just been released from prison, where he served 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread and for trying to escape. He is turned away from everywhere as no-one wants to hire an ex convict. He is taken in by a Bishop who offers him food and a bed. He ends up stealing from the Bishop, but when caught by police the Bishop says he gave them as a gift. He is constantly hassled by the police. He changes his name and becomes a wealthy factory owner, and becomes mayor. One day his real identity is uncovered by the police chief..... Then ensues a tale of adoption, love and war. There is some very light hearted moments in the show, thanks to the actors portraying "The Thernadiers", the local innkeeper and his wife. They had some great lyrics and some comedic timing in their acting.

Throughout the whole of the show, the acting and singing was second to none. Not just the lead actors but the chorus line too. Everyone had such great voices, including the two young children in the show.  The lyrics were well written and really helped tell the story as there was no speaking throughout the show, just singing. I really do love the soundtrack. 

There were some sad moments in the show and the girl behind me kept giving loud sobs which amused me. I must admit though I did shed a tear near the end.

The finale was uplifting and truly amazing. It is the first show I have ever been to where there was a standing ovation at the interval and the end of the show.

So if you are looking for a great theatre show to go to then I highly recommend it.