Those of you keeping up with the blog – thank you! – will know that Clare and I were in London last week for the Book Fair. It was, of course, the big reason for attending, but since this was only the second time that I had been to London and since in my mind London = the West End = the most incredible musicals in one place, I had to get tickets for a show.
I’m lucky to have seen most of my favourite musicals. I saw Wicked the first time I was in London five years ago and it was one of the most amazing nights ever. I also adore Phantom of the Opera and Avenue Q, which I saw last year in Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively. (Good year.) Anyway, the last of that top tier of musicals that I just absolutely had to see was Les Misérables.
Obviously I’ve seen the anniversary concerts and the movie, and know every song off by heart, but there’s always something different about seeing a live musical. No two performances are the same and there’s something a bit special about the show you see. This version did not disappoint.
Géronimo Rauch was playing Valjean. I’ve loved every Valjean I’ve seen (although I have a soft spot for Colm Wilkinson, since he was the original and the first that I ‘saw’) and he was no exception. In fact, on a purely superficial note, he was a bit younger than I was expecting. Even with my glasses on I was still struggling to see the details of his face from the next-to-last row of the theatre; it wasn’t until we went to the stage door to meet the cast that I realised he was really cute! Very charming too.
The only cast member I knew before was Danielle Hope, who played Éponine. She’s so much more confident since her stint on Over the Rainbow. I love Éponine because she’s one of the few characters that I think everyone can relate to. She’s the poor, lonely point in the Marius/Cosette/Éponine love triangle, and her unrequited love for Marius leads to two of the best songs in the musical – ‘On My Own’ and ‘A Little Fall of Rain’.
Every performer was brilliant, from the Thénardiers to Javert and, of course, little Gavroche. Marius and Cosette were really sweet. In fact, I could go on listing every character, so I’ll stop now and just reiterate what an amazingly talented cast they were. It helps that the music and lyrics are absolutely stunning – it would be difficult for a group of singers to get this show wrong. However, the set is also creative, using the space in the best way possible (revolving floor) in order to inject some scale to the stage.
Some people seem to judge the musical as depressing before ever seeing it, possibly because the title looks like the English word ‘miserable’. But in this sense, misérable is more like ‘wretched’, even ‘poor’. These aren’t exactly positive words, and there are terribly sad aspects to the story, yet the ultimate feeling you’re left with is close to uplifting. At its heart, this is a story of bravery, love and redemption. Nothing miserable about that!