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Review: Les Miserables

PUBLISHED: 08:50 19 February 2010 | UPDATED: 08:15 02 July 2010

Peter Walsh

A quarter of a century after this show first wowed audiences at the West End and it is back with a new look - and a new fan base thanks to Susan Boyle's life-changing appearance on Britain's Got Talent.

Theatre Royal

A quarter of a century after this show first wowed audiences at the West End and it is back with a new look - and a new fan base thanks to Susan Boyle's life-changing appearance on Britain's Got Talent.

The Scottish spinster's rendition of I Dreamed a Dream, a hit number from the production, on the ITV1 show not only changed her life forever but helped get a whole new audience buzzing about this theatrical classic.

The production, which has been specially adapted for its 25th anniversary, is in Norwich for the start of a five week run which has been all but sold out for weeks - with people coming from as far afield as London and Manchester to see the show.

And while Susan Boyle might have helped hook a new audience, it is another TV talent singer, Gareth Gates, who was runner up in the first ever Pop Idol competition on ITV1, that is one of the reasons for keeping audiences in Norwich captivated.

Last night Gates, who played the dashing Marius, proved he has more than boyish good looks with a strong central performance which proved he can not only sing classical as well as popular music - but that he can act too.

But while Gates impressed as the love interest alongside Cosette (Katie Hall) it was Christopher Jacobsen who stole the show as Jean Valjean. Jacobsen, who replaced John Owen-Jones in the role excelled with a powerful performance full of emotion, poignancy and realism.

Other notable performances came from Ashley Artus (Thenardier) and Lynne Wilmot (Madame Thenardier) who provided some comic light relief from the drama. Madalena Alberto too was fantastic as Fantine whose rendition of I Dreamed a Dream truly made the hairs stand on end.

The cast was fantastic, but then so too was the set. The stunning scenery was not only beautifully illustrated and crafted, but together with the atmospheric lighting, created a sense that the audience, as well as the cast, were there on the streets of France too.

But running through the performance like sonic super glue holding everything together was the orchestra, led by Peter White, which brilliantly set the tone and the pace of the drama on the stage.

At the end, the audience were on their feet to mark the end of what had truly been a memorable performance.

t Les Miserables runs at the Norwich Theatre Royal until March 20.

WHAT YOU THOUGHT

t Alison Randall, 44, Poringland, Norfolk County Council worker - It was fabulous. It's London come to Norwich. Bring Him Home is a song I have always loved and when they hit the high notes the hair on the back of your neck stood up.

t Cyril Stamp, 83, Heartsease Lane, Norwich, retired - It was a brilliant production. I have seen it before in London and the scenery here was excellent - better than the London scenery and the finale was good too.

t Jackie Bouic, 60, King's Lynn, works at St Martha's Catholic Primary School - I just love the music and to see the acting really brings all the music to life. It was very moving.

t Jan Loosley, King's Lynn, works at St Martha's Catholic Primary School - I hadn't got a clue what it was about - all I knew was that it was to do with the French revolution. I though it was absolutely superb and I quite easily followed the story and thought the ending was lovely.

t Christine Farr, 60, King's Lynn, works at St Martha's Catholic Primary School - The three leads were very, very good and the whole cast were brilliant and really complemented each other. The children in it were fantastic.

t Queree family, Chris, Kim, Hannah and Sarah from Saffron Walden, with mum Jeanette Lawes from Dereham - We thought it was excellent. Javert sang Stars really well and Jean Valjean was very good as well.

t Shirley Shackshaft, 76, Poringland, retired - We saw it 15 years ago in London and it became a favourite. It was absolutely superb, different in some ways as they had brought it up to date but still just as magical. It really brought you to tears.

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