Thursday, December 15, 2011

'Les Misérables' first (No, I had never seen it before)

Those people who know a bit more about me and my interest in musical theatre have expressed their shock when I have told them that I have neither seen this legendary musical nor know what it is about. I own a copy of the audio recording of the 10th anniversary concert (much love for Colm Wilkinson, Philip Quast, Ruthie Henshall etc.) and I have had that playing in the background but I had not listened to the lyrics particularly carefully. And of course I was familiar with some well-known songs like On My Own, I Dreamed A Dream and Do You Hear the People Sing? but aside from that I was very much in the dark until yesterday. 

I will put down some of the things I discovered and liked about the show. No heavy criticism as I don't want to offend anyone. Again, feel free to add your own comments :) 

Before the show: I thought Les Mis was was a story about war in which everyone dies. That will sound absolutely ridiculous to those of you who know the musical. It sounds ridiculous to me now that I have seen it. And I walked into the auditorium quietly singing Do You Hear the People Sing? to myself (and I left at the end still singing that).

Les Misérables at Queen's Theatre in London
Performance on 14th December 2011 at 14:30
Seat: Quite far back in the upper circle but in the middle of the row so I could still see the whole stage. I had binoculars with me.
Cast inc.: Ramin Karimloo (Jean Valjean), Hadley Fraser (Javert), A J Callaghan (Fantine, u/s), Alexia Khadime (Eponine), Lisa-Anne Wood (Cosette), Craig Mather (Marius), Liam Tamne (Enjolras), Cameron Blakely (Thénardier), Katy Secombe (Madame Thénardier)

I very much wanted to see Ramin in this since I've seen him in both The Phantom of the Opera and Love Never Dies before and I absolutely adore his voice. He sang beautifully; especially Bring Him Home was incredible and that long note at the end of Soliloquy genuinely made me jump - I just did not expect it to come out as strong as it did. The audience was quite lame and that combined with the fact that there are not many breaks for the audience to applaud in, everyone sat fairly silently. The only time there was a proper cheer before the curtain call was after Bring Him Home so there really was something extraordinary about that performance.
I have been hearing people doubting how well Ramin could play the part of Jean Valjean because they simply could not picture him do it. A friend of mine pointed out that Enjolras, whom Ramin has played before, is probably a  more suitable part for him. While I am not denying that Ramin was incredible and he adapted his vocals perfectly to the role, I can still see why some people might lean towards preferring him as Enjolras. His voice would have been perfectly suited to that part.

What was the best thing about the show? If I was to say just one thing I would say Javert's coat. I think his coat was really cool! Well that got me nicely onto Javert and the fact that Hadley Fraser was great in the part. And I thought it was brilliant how the part-allocation had worked out here thinking back at The Phantom of the Opera 25th anniversary concert in which Ramin played the Phantom and Hadley played Raoul. Anyway, Hadley has a great, great voice!

Many have wondered how Alexia did as Eponine. If I am honest, she did not leave as big an impression as some of the other actors did. I have heard so many great things about her though, that I have come to think she might simply have had a bit of an off-day today. Her voice is very powerful and on occasion it stood out a little bit too much from the cast as a whole in my opinion, slightly due to nasality as well. However, she did add a riff to On My Own which I liked very much!

Particular mentions go to:

  • Lisa-Anne Wood who sang Cosette beautifully. She has quite a pretty, unique voice and I have a feeling we will be hearing of her in the future. Landing a role like this pretty much straight from drama school is no easy thing so she does have talent.
  • Katy Secombe came across as the perfect Madame Thénardier (what a name to spell - I keep having to re-check the spelling every time!) both considering voice and comic ability. 
  • An amazing soprano voice in the ensemble whose owner I failed to identify but in some ensemble sections I could hear it above everyone else. 
  • The little boy who played Gavroche, he seemed so comfortable on stage and made the audience laugh!


  • This musical consists pretty much completely of singing so for people who are not used to paying overly close to attention to lyrics (like me), it is not the easiest one to follow if you do not know the plot.
  • I was surprised by how good the plot was. I am not quite sure why since a legendary musical such as this cannot really afford to have a dull or weird plot.
  • This show relies a lot on a great ensemble and the ensemble numbers were impressive.
  • There are so many markings on the stage - from the upper circle they are really visible.
  • This is no musical for little children; the gunshots really scared me.
  • In the barricade scene, from my seat I was able to see the 'dead' people getting up and exiting the stage behind the barricade.
  • They have effectively taken advantage of the fact that there is a rotating stage.

I am aware that I am probably in the minority by actually reading the synopses in programmes so: If you have a copy of the Les Mis programme but have not read the synopsis, go and have a read for entertainment value. It is quite funny if you imagine how confusing it is for someone who does not know the plot. Not only are there tons of names, some of the sentences are also very long with several clauses, not to mention the occasional imprecise use of personal pronouns:

"Valjean confesses the truth of his past to Marius and insists he must go away." 

Sorry, who must go away? :P

Conclusion: Yes, I am intending to go and see Les Misérables again :) I am not sure how and why I have gone this long without seeing it. In addition, I know the original book by Victor Hugo is big but I might still have a go at reading it!

P.S. If someone knows what the initials in 'A J Callaghan' stand for, please share. I am curious to find out!


  1. Heii, tosi kivanoloinen blogi sinulla - seurantaan menee!

    "I thought Les Mis was was a story about war in which everyone dies. That will sound absolutely ridiculous to those of you who know the musical."
    --> Les Misin ehkä pakkomielteisimmän suomalaisen fanin asemassa voinen sanoa, että ei tuo niin hölmöä ole. Jos minun nimittäin pitää kuvailla juoni lyhyesti jollekulle, joka ei tiedä Les Misistä mitään, niin turvaudun usein selitykseen 'siinä on vallankumous ja kaikki kuolee'... ;)

    Taidan olla vähän kateellinen - itsekin haluaisin kovasti nähdä Raminin JVJ:nä, mutta se kun on roolissa niin lyhyen aikaa ja aikaisimmillaan pääsisin matkustamaan huhtikuussa... Ei taida tapahtua! D:

    Turun ruotsalaisen teatterin versiossa juoniselostusta on muuten ainakin kaksi aanelosta... Eikä siinä ole paljon järkeä sittenkään. ;)

    1. Sulla oli myös kiva musikaaliaiheinen blogi. Seurasin :)

      Joo, kyllähän se yleisesti ottaen kertoo sodasta ja kaikki kuolee mutta sillon kun istuin teatterissa katsomassa sitä, en oikeastaan kiinnittänyt kumpaankaan noista asioista paljoakaan huomiota. Jotain siinä vaan oli. Ei sitä oikein osaa selittää. Well, I'm sure you know what I mean :)
      Mielenkiintoinen huomio muuten tuosta ÅST:n juoniselostuksesta. Pitänee nyt ottaa asiaksi, että alkaa lueskelemaan 'Les Mis' juoniselostuksia kun pystyy ja katsoo, että löytyykö yhtään suhteellisen selkeää.

      Mun mielestä on todella harmi, että Ramin on tuossa vaan niin vähän aikaa. Olen ihan varma, että hän pystyisi vetämään salin täyteen kauemminkin. Mutta sähän voit aina suunnitella Englannin matkan Raminin soolokiertueen ympärille.. ;)

  2. A j stands for amanda jane