Les Misérables is London’s longest running musical and has been translated into 22 different languages and performed in more than 319 cities. It is one of the all-time theatre classics and a must-see for any theatre fan. The musical is based on the book by French novelist and poet Victor Hugo. The music is by Claude-Michel Shoënburg and the original lyrics were written by Alain Boubill and Jean-Marc Natel (in French).
The musical is set in post-Revolution 19th Century France and contains three interlocking storylines: Jean Valjean and Inspector Javier are arch enemies; a love triangle between Cosette, Marius and Éponine; and the Boys of the Barricade fighting to overthrow the King.
At this performance, Jean Valjean was played by Adam Bayjou (Assassins, Love Story, Carousel), the understudy, and is played full-time by Peter Lockyer (Miss Saigon, La Bohème, Phantom of the Opera). Valjean begins the show as a prisoner, 24601, for stealing a loaf of bread, but as the story progresses, he rises to respectability, running a factory and then becoming a father figure to Cosette, the daughter of Fantine (played by Rachelle Ann Go (Miss Saigon, Little Mermaid, Tarzan)). Fantine is a tragic character, being kind of a martyr as she gives everything she has to her daughter, Cosette. Fantine was forced to give Cosette into the care of Mr and Mrs Thenardiers (owners of a pub) as she couldn’t take care of her and work after her husband left them stranded. Valjean, having been a prisoner, remains on the run from the officials, specifically Inspector Javier.
Inspector Javier was played by Jeremy Secomb (Sweeney Todd, Phantom of the Opera, Evita). He was given the task in Revolution and post-Revolution France to oversee the prisoners. They were treated like slaves and Javier’s commitment to the law leads him to be unforgiving to anyone who breaks it, believing that once someone has offended, no matter how trivial the offence, they can never be reformed and see the error of their ways. Secomb is fantastic in the role, giving an impassioned performance of ‘Stars’.
Fantine’s daughter, Cosette, begins the show as a frightened little girl in the care of the Thenardiers who are far from kind to her in contrast to their own daughter, Éponine, who they treat like she was an angel. The Thenardiers, played by Phil Daniels (A Clockwork Orange, The Beggar’s Opera, numerous Shakespeare plays) and Katy Secombe (The Lion, I Can’t Sing, Mamma Mia) own a pub and have made an art form of taking advantage of people in a befuddled state. After performing ‘Castle on a Cloud’, Valjean, keeping his promise to Fantine, takes her into his care. The show moves on nine years (now 1832), and, now a young woman, Cosette is played by Zoë Doano (Sweeney Todd, Grease, The Grand Tour) and falls in love with Marius.
Marius is played by Rob Houchen (professional debut), who is a young man fighting on the barricade. However, he falls in love with Cosette at first sight and he begins to question everything he is doing, thinking perhaps his place is beside her and not fighting against the National Guard. He asks his friend, Éponine, to find Cosette for him so he can see her again. Houchen is outstanding in the role, with an excellent voice, and brings an innocent boyish quality which suits the part very well.
Éponine is played by Carrie Hope Fletcher (Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Wind in the Willows). Fletcher has an incredible voice, and her rendition of ‘On My Own’ was very emotive, conveying her agonising love for Marius that is not returned and indeed he remains ignorant to her feelings.
The Boys of the Barricade are fighting to overthrow the King. After the French Revolution, the monarchy of Louis XVI was overthrown, however, nine years later, another monarchy was established with Louis-Phillipe on the throne. The Boys of the Barricade is based on true events, known as the June Rebellion in 1832.
The show has some of the most iconic, powerful songs in musical theatre, all of which were performed fantastically by the cast. ‘Bring Him Home’ was performed perfectly by Bayjou who delivered the song with intense emotion, giving it so much power and moving everyone in the audience. ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ is deeply moving and performed very skilfully by Rachelle Ann Go. ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’, which is sung after ‘Red and Black’, rallies the supporters of the Barricade and is a very inspiring song and captures the hearts of the audience. Although it is a very serious show, ‘Master of the House’, performed by the Thenardiers, adds some contrasting comedy.
Les Misérables is absolutely phenomenal show and deserves all praise that is given to it. It is currently showing at the Queen’s Theatre – we urge everyone to go and see it.