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Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary

LES MISERABLES: It’s worth the ticket price just to hear Owen Jones sing ‘Bring Him Home; and if you aren’t, at the very least, blinking furiously by the end then make an appointment at your local hospital to get the stone surgically removed from the place where your heart should be.
Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary
The Barbican, London until October 2 There is something almost admirable about the audacity with which studios and record labels issue anniversary editions of favourite films and albums in a slightly bigger box with ‘bonus’ material that turns out to have been omitted from the beloved original with good reason. This practice is almost the retail equivalent of re-wrapping an unwanted Christmas bread-maker in shiny new paper and passing it off on somebody else the following year. No such cynicism with the 25th anniversary Les Misérables in the Barbican Theatre. Unburdened by the hissing hearing aids, rustling Maltesers and mobile phones of the West End’s coach party punters, Cameron Mackintosh’s crowd pleaser is suffused with renewed vim and vigour on the very stage where it began its life so long ago. John Owen Jones’ Valjean sets a very high vocal standard for his fellow cast members and not all of them entirely live up to it. There is a slight tentativeness in some of the famous solo numbers and everyone else is cast into shade after ‘Bring Him Home’: it’s worth the ticket price just to hear Owen Jones sing it and if you aren’t, at the very least, blinking furiously by the end then make an appointment at your local hospital to get the stone surgically removed from the place where your heart should be. Gareth Gates is a pleasingly unmawkish Marius, Rosalind James more than holds her own as Eponine while Earl Carpenter completely grasps the moral conflict unravelling in the soul of Javert and entirely avoids portraying him as a pantomime villain. The crowd scenes are handled particularly well and the set is an impressive blend of projected backdrops and flying flats. Directors Lawrence Connor and James Powell bring the production in at a brisk three hours and you’re a fool if you don’t get down to the Barbican over the next couple of nights – no matter how many times you might have seen Les Mis before – this is something special. For more info, visit: http://www.barbican.org.uk/film/event-detail.asp?id=10589&pg=2626

David Trennery

Thursday 30 September, 2010

About the author

David Trennery is a free-lance writer.