For my 60th Birthday in 2021 I booked a trip to watch Les Miserables with my friend Monica, It’s rare I book an expensive seat as I go to the theatre regularly, but this, was a special occasion. The date? 17th March – the day after theatres closed! The first of many disappointments, but not terrible, we re-booked for November.
I’m going to give some background to my personal Les Mis ‘journey’. I hadn’t seen the show when the film starring Hugh Jackman (stage performer) and Russell Crowe (Not a stage performer) – I went with my daughter Alexandra, who lives in Paris. I loved the film, as did she, she cried almost from minute one (she had seen the stage show). That was in 2012: It took me a while to realise how poor the vocals are in the film. I probably watched the film 4 or 5 times and bought the DVD, I can sing the score all the way through, whether those near me like it or not!
My next experience was indeed the stage show, two years later in 2014, first controversial comment from me, I didn’t really enjoy it, It was at The Queen’s Theatre, I don’t remember much about it other than the fact I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Looking back at the cast list, I can see Bradley Jaden amongst the cast, this is a show where actors ‘move up’. Carrie Hope Fletcher started with Cosette and was Eponine in 2014.
Move to 2019 and I went to watch the staged concert, with Michael Ball as Javert (having played Marius and Jean Valjean), Alfie Boe as Valjean and Carrie Hope Fletcher as Fantine. Bradley Jaden played Enjolras. Now this one, I loved! The actors were in costume and there was some drama but it did what it said on the tin basically.
On the back of that concert I went to see Ball and Boe at the O2 in March 2020, just before we all got locked down, a potential superspreader event, we both got away scot free. The evening was great, but controversial opinion again; neither man has the voice now for this show, Alfie Boe is too operatic and while I’d say I was thrilled to see Michael Ball live; I won’t be rushing to see either live again.
On to November 2021 and an evening at the stunning Sondheim Theatre, refurbished by Cameron Mackintosh and named, aptly after Sondheim. The stage was lowered by 30cm to take it closer to the audience, extra toilets were added, new seating was installed and additional space was reclaimed on every floor.
The previous ‘version’ of Les Mis had run for 15 years in this very theatre, the new production is very different. Jon Robyns plays Jean Valjean – he’s played Marius and Enjolras in previous productions and Bradley Jaden as Javert, we know he sang Enjolras in the staged concert.
Hard to imagine, but this was truly the moment I fully understood what it is to witness this masterpiece with excellence on the stage. Both leads are simply fabulous, I’ve very quickly become a big Bradley Jaden fan, along with many others. Both men were perfect in their respective parts.
This production is one where special effects are used, and they’re used to great effect. Stars in particular is very clever.
I saw Phantom of The Opera the week before I saw Les Mis and although I really enjoyed it, I did think it looked a bit old fashioned. This ‘new’ production is keeping this London favourite fresh. A ten out of ten from me!