Les Misérables, Norwich Theatre Royal: “a heartbreakingly wonderful three hours of glorious theatre”
- Credit: Supplied by Norwich Theatre Royal
Review: Les Misérables, Norwich Theatre Royal: It's an absolute privilege to hear the people sing in this fantastic production
"It doesn't get any easier on your poor heart, does it?" the lady behind me at Norwich Theatre Royal said, as she stood up to leave, "but we can't resist putting ourselves through it time and time again…"
Cameron Mackintosh's acclaimed production of Boublil and Schönberg's musical has arrived in Norwich and it's as heartbreakingly wonderful as you'd hope it would be, down to every single detail.
Tragedy, love, passion, vengeance, duty, misery, hopelessness, hope, humour, cruelty, loyalty - it's all there in almost three hours of glorious theatre, a spectacular and addictive emotional rollercoaster of a show that leaves you marvelling at the fact that when "tomorrow comes" the cast will do it all over again. Sometimes twice.
With a clever set which uses projected images, including paintings by Les Misérables author Victor Hugo, audiences are transported to 1830s Paris thanks to atmospheric pictures, lighting and clever effects (in particular when the action moves to the sewers and to the bridge, both of which are gut-wrenchingly immersive).
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Costumes, the majestic orchestra, clever and inventive staging, the special effects, the pacing of the show, the epic showpieces: they are all flawless.
But it's those incredible voices that steal the show and this new touring production of Les Misérables is packed full of them - just when you think you've heard the stand-out song of the show another comes along, and then another, then another…
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Dean Chisnall in his dream role of Jean Valjean pours heart and soul into his performance, bringing a kaleidoscope of emotion to the hero of the piece that range from blind rage to sweet tenderness and showcase his gorgeous, nuanced voice. Who Am I? a and Bring Him Home were perfection: you could have heard a pin drop during Chisnall's rendition of the latter, it was so delicately, beautifully performed, I was almost too mesmerised to cry. Almost.
Valjean's on-stage rival, Javert (Nic Greenshields) has a stunning rich and powerful voice which fills the auditorium, particularly during his rendition of Stars and his (spoiler) parting piece - just beautiful.
The pair's ongoing storyline, a 17-year game of cat and mouse, was an affecting example of how incredibly thin the line between hatred and respect can be.
Katie Hall is wonderful as tragic, fragile Fantine while Felix Mosse and Charlie Burn are suitably charming and polished as Marius and Cosette, although I'm always secretly rooting for poor Eponine (Frances Mayli McCann), who gave a wonderfully assured performance, including a hearbreaking A Little Fall of Rain.
While it must be said that much of the musical is, well, Misérable, there were laughs to be had from the effervescent Madame Thenardier and her husband (Helen Walsh and Ian Hughes) who are corrupt to the core but entertaining with it - unless you are budgie (never accept a sausage from the Thenardiers).
Special mentions must also go to Aaron Pryce-Lewis' Bishop of Digne, the epitome of a generous host and the owner of a wonderful voice, Barnaby Hughes as Enjolras who was simply superb as the leader of the revolution and those barnstorming, rousing sing-alongs: At the End of the Day, Red and Black, One Day More…the list goes on. There was a well-deserved standing ovation at the end of the show for a cast, orchestra and crew that give absolutely everything to this epic musical.
As the lady behind me pointed out, once you're drawn in by Les Misérables, resistance - as Enjolras and his band of merry men discover - is futile: I'll be back to see the show again on March 21. Vive Les Misérables!
* Les Misérables runs until Saturday April 4, 2020 at 7.30pm with Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Tickets £10 - £66.50. Discounts for Friends, Corporate Club, Over-60s and Under-18s.
Book at www.norwichtheatre.org or call the box office on 01603 630000.