Les Miserables – Queen’s Theatre, London

18 Oct
Believe it or not but until August 2011 I had never (and I repeat: NEVER) seen Les Miserables live on stage. Sure, I knew the story and the songs and had seen videos of the show. But that was it. I know this is strange for a musical theatre geek like me. But somehow I just wasn’t drawn to that particular show. Or maybe I had just secretly been waiting for someone I definitely wanted to see to join the show because that’s what happened this year and so I’m no longer a Les Mis virgin.
For anyone that is asking “But if you wanted to wait until someone you like to join the show why didn’t you go when Ramin Karimloo was in it?” – Well, I would have but sadly it took me way too long to discover the amazing talent of Mr. Karimloo and so I had no idea he existed back in the day.

The reason I just couldn’t neglect Les Miserables any longer was Mr. Alfie Boe. I have watched the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary DVD various times (of course!) and I was lucky enough to see Alfie perform at the 2011 What’s on Stage Awards at the Prince of Wales Theatre. And once it was confirmed he was joining the London production of Les Mis for a few months it was set in stone that I would go and see him on stage.

I’m writing this after my third visit to the show (yes, I’ve been trying to catch up quickly). I guess everyone knows the basic story of the show so I won’t go into that – Wikipedia has quite a good synposis in case you are interested though.
Alfie Boes as Jean Valjean is a true revelation. From the moment he appears on stage I could hardly take my eyes off him. Although he is known for being a singer more than an actor I found his portrayal of Valjean to be extremely intense and gripping. He is a very physical actor which works exceptionally well in this show. I remember one show where he almost ended up falling off the stage after being pushed by the ensemble and falling down a little too forcefully.
Together with one of the most amazing voices I have ever heard that makes an absolutely stunnuing Jean Valjean. When Alfie starts singing “Bring him home” the whole theatre is completely silent and you can feel just how special this moment it.

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Hadley Fraser is playing Valjean’s “opponent” Javert. Until Les Miserable I have only known Hadley as a member of the band Sheytoons (alongside Ramin Karimloo). So I knew he could sing and was a talented songwriter but I had no idea what an all around fantastic performer he is. Well, I do know now. Hadley’s Javert is dangerous, a little arrogant and angry and he is just as physical as Alfie. He portrays a Javert that is almost haunted by his need to find Valjean and completely driven by this one goal. Him and Alfie work so well together – a pure joy to watch.

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I’ve seen Liam Tamne in other shows and best remember him for being a fantastic Fiyero in Wicked and he was, of course, part of the “Summer of Hair” (meaning he was in the cast of Hair at the Guilgud Theatre in 2010). It’s great to see him in Les Miserables now playing the part of Enjolras. He’s got a really good voice and he totally fits the part of the leader of the student revolutionaries.

Craig Mather is playing Enjolras’ friend Marius.  This show marks Crag’s West End Debut and I can see this guy going far in the world of musical theatre. Great voice and great acting.

Alexia Khadime used to play Elphaba in Wicked, a show and part completely different from Eponine. But this really shows what a versatile actress she is. I have heard that some audience members don’t enjoy the way she sings “On my own”. I have to say I adore her take on the song. I’ve never been a fan of this song as I think it’s weaker than a lot of the other songs in Les Miserables. But Alexia manages to make me like “On my own” and actually look forward to hearing it – and yes, I love that she riffs parts of the song!

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The first time I went to see the show Matt Lucas was playing Thenardier and he did a great job. Granted, he’s no born singer and it was visible that he is no experienced musical theatre performer. But he definitely got the laughs – everyone who gets the audiende to clap along during “Master of the house” must be doing something right. I could have done with fewer ad libs though.
Currently Cameron Blakely is Thenardier in the show and I have to say all in all I prefer his portrayal of the part. He’s a bit less “in your face” and manages to give the audience a bit more insight into the character instead of just going for the laughs all the time.
Katy Secombe is a great Madame Thenardier and her and Cameron Blakely work together brilliantly.

Caroline Sheen’s Fantine is probably the one link in the show I enjoyed the least. I’m not saying she’s not good but compared to the rest of the cast she just didn’t stand out for me. And her “I dreamed a dream” didn’t really do it for me – no goosebumps or anything.

Lisa-Anne Wood is a very cute Cosette and I enjoyed hearing her sing “A heart full of love” with Craig Mather.

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The whole ensemble is absolutely amazing. I can imagine how vocally and physically demanding this show is and I salute the whole cast for going through this 8 times a week!

Sadly I probably won’t be able to see the show again while Alfie Boe is in it but I will definitely be back to see Hadley and the rest of the cast. Although Les Miserables is no show I can see every week I’m more than happy that I have finally discovered my love for this show – thanks to Alfie and the whole current cast of the London production.

Les Miserables is on at the Queen’s Theatre. For more information and to book tickets go to http://www.lesmis.com/home_uk.php

Me and Hadley Fraser

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Me and Liam Tamne

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Me and Alfie Boe

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