On its opening night almost thirty five years ago Les Misérables received a 10 minute standing ovation   – and even today the finale of this musical still has the power to bring the audience to its feet.

Starting life in 1978 when Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil began work on a stage musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables has become one of the most popular and successful musicals ever and its easy to understand why.

Les Misérables is a powerful story with a rousing score that has many of the traits of classical opera. It’s is an epic tragedy dealing with loss, oppression, courage in the face of adversity and human endeavour.

Set in 19th century France, the story tells the life of Jean Valjean, imprisoned for sealing bread to feed his sisters starving children. He rejects a life of crime, but is constantly haunted by his past as he tries to redeem his life and become a valued member of society.

His many charitable actions include raising Cosette, a young girl entrusted to him by her dying mother, but the political and social unrest in France leads them both to events with tragic results.

This International Touring production was first premiered in 2009 for the show’s 25th anniversary and is now playing at its only Yorkshire venue The Alhambra.

It’s a seamless production that moves beautifully despite losing the revolve it had in the London production. The new set is one for the 21st century with emotive images, inspired by Victor Hugo’s paintings that strongly reinforce the mood and passion of the time, displayed on an LED wall which has the effect of drawing the audience further into the action.

Killian Donnelly’s Jean Valjean is a magnificent portrayal of a man who endures both mental, physical and emotional pain yet emerges stronger for it. His characterization is strong and physically bold yet at times he displays a wonderful tenderness and the deep feelings of a man who can forgive and love.

As Javert, Nic Greenshields gives a powerful performance in his cruel and unforgiving characterization of a man without compassion. His soliloquy in Act 2, with the fabulous effect of the river, was amazing and so full of emotion and pathos, I really felt sorry for him.

The entire cast of principles and the ensemble who take on cameo roles is one of sheer excellence in every aspect of their performances  and one that truly deserved the standing ovation it got at The Alhambra.

Les Misérables runs at the Alhambra until 10th August

Review by Liz Coggins who is a member of The Critics Circle




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