Reviewed by Emily March
19th November 2019
Reviewer Rating: ★★★★★
Les Misérables has raised the bar for touring musicals this evening at Wales Millennium Centre. Les Mis is a sung-through musical, adapted from French poet Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel of the same name. This new version of the production gives the musical a new burst of energy with its stirring visuals and stunning performances. Lasting almost 3 hours in length, the show had me holding my breath for the duration, in awe of its beauty, emotion, powerful melodies and poetic lyrics.
The cast was lead by the sensational Dean Chisnall as Jean Valjean. His voice soured through the huge venue, filled with some much emotion and tenderness. He carried the heavy weight of this giant production on his shoulders, which must really test his stamina 8 shows a week. He shined opposite his enemy Javert, played by Nic Greenshields, who’s strong stage presence cast a darker shadow over the piece.
Not one member of the cast was weak or unnecessary. As such an ensemble piece of theatre, their energy and commitment was just as important as that of the leads. I was particularly moved by Katie Hall’s compelling performance as the broken Fantine. Her rendition of I Dreamed A Dream stopped the world for a few minutes and brought me to tears. Her final scene in the first act, accompanied by my favourite song Come To Me, was shocking and devastating, even for someone like me who already knew of her unfortunate destiny.
The scenery, which was apparently inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo, was evident. Every scene was like a painting had come to life, which was unique from anything I had seen before on stage. The lighting was dim for the majority of the show. At first it took a while for my eyes to adjust, but it was necessary to create the dark atmosphere of the setting. The special effects were also impressive and really brought the audience into the show, with moments even feeling like a 4D cinema moment, with large moving projections on the backdrop. This was an exciting development for the show, and I have to say, it felt integral to the big impact that the show had. It was very well done as it didn’t make the show feel too modern or withdrawn from its original context.
This production reminded me how much I adore the incredible score of Les Miserables (by Claude-Michel Schonberg). Although the songs continuously run into each other, they also stand alone as separate moments of the show, each with their own character and narrative that is essential to moving the show along. The rousing One Day More did not disappoint with its powerful vocals and visuals, and the Finale for me closed the show with both power and heartbreak.
It was thrilling to see the musical for the first time as an adult. I have only just realised how relevant this story is, both literally, with its war scenes, violence and politics, but also with its universal themes of love, family, grief, obsession and guilt. Everyone can see themselves in the show and hopefully feel somewhat lighter leaving the theatre, I know I did.
Les Miserables plays at the Wales Millennium Centre over the holiday season until January 4th. Run to get the remaining tickets: https://www.wmc.org.uk/en/whats-on/2019/les-miserables/