Jul. 26th, 2014

Les Mis

Jul. 26th, 2014 11:09 pm
tara: (Les Mis: One Day More)
I am horribly behind with just about everything ever, and I really must reply to LJ comments and read my flist. Yes. That is how behind I am. I always read, even if I'm not replying.

In the meantime, though, I went to Les Mis in Melbourne for the first time in about 24 years last night*. It was my ninth time seeing it, but seven of those nine were in London. I went with Keith, who has never seen it live, despite having seen pretty much everything else, so it was a fun combination of a first-timer and a raving fangirl ;p

Okay, so, the good stuff first.

Simon Gleeson is amazing. Simon Gleeson is always amazing, but he is particularly amazing as Jean Valjean. I wanted him as Javert, but I am so not going to complain about Valjean, especially after that turn. I need to take E to see the show, but I need to do it on a night he's not likely to be replaced.

Hayden Tee is very good as Javert. Javert is my make-or-break for a production and he did it well. I think he was better in the second act, and his Suicide was amazing, but his Stars was very capable as well. No chills, though.

Kerrie Anne Greenland was delightful as Eponine. Look, vocally she could have been a little better, but I loved what she did with the character and she looks like a young Eva Green.

I am not sure about Patrice Tipoki's vocal style for Fantine, and I was really missing a true belt in IDaD but I did really like her acting and she looked so young and vulnerable which is good because sometimes you end up with middle-aged Fantines and that's just weird.

Trevor Ashley and Octavia Barron Martin (understudy) were great as the Thenardiers. Ashley: to be expected. But Martin was fab. God I want to play that role.

Chris Durling could've been vocally better as Enjolras, but he looked the part so hard that I forgive him ;)

Luke Joslin did a very good job with what he was given to work with as Grantaire. (more on that later)

Okay, so, the lesser bits.

A Marius, a Marius, my kingdom for a decent Marius! God, they're so often awful, it seems. Euan Doidge is not awful (his ECaET wasn't too bad) but he's just not up to scratch vocally and he was so awkward on stage. He looked like an amateur up there. Marius is a completely wet character at the best of times, so when you have someone who isn't bothering to act, it's just eh. And he ruined the most shivers-down-the-spine line in the show: "My place is here, I fight with you." (Okay, maybe it shares that title with "One more day before the storm." That line is why you need an Enjolras who kicks arse vocally as well as being charismatic.)

The staging of the second act is awful. Okay, so this is the FIRST TIME EVER I've seen a production of Les Mis without a revolve (concert versions aside). IT NEEDS THE REVOLVE. Look, in the first act, they did a good job of doing things without it, but the barricades bit was awful and they ruined the most powerful bits of the whole damn show. spoilers )

It went beyond that, too. They had projections on the back of the stage and they weren't noticeable really in the first act, but they were awful in the sewer section. Instead of the usual great use of lighting, it was very distracting music-video stuff in the background. Javert's death suffered from that too.

THERE WERE NO CHAIRS IN EMPTY CHAIRS. Seriously, it was the weirdest thing. There were tea lights. Tea lights. Ditch the friggin' candles, and bring back the damn café.

The other thing, although it's really not as big as the staging, is that they didn't have the amazing characterisation stuff with Grantaire and Enjolras that they've been doing in London in recent years. It's been such a highlight for me the last few times I've seen the show, and it's great at bringing more of the book into the musical and actually making the students less of a blob and more like individuals that you actually care about once the barricades happen. Grantaire (in the book and London) is a sceptic and a drunkard and the only thing in the world that he believes in is Enjolras. And Enjolras is charismatic but flawed. You bring their story into the show and you add a whole other level to it. So it was disappointing that it wasn't a thing here. Instead, they contrasted Graintaire and Gavroche, which worked nicely, but damn that interplay they have between all the students in the current London production is just so good.

Look, for non Les Mis nerds, it's an excellent production. Seriously. It's definitely worth seeing. I just would've staged it differently myself.

* To give an idea of how long ago that was, and how amazing those first Australian casts were, original Aus cast had Normie Rowe as Valjean, the best ever Javert in Philip Quast, Debbie Byrne as Fantine, Simon Burke as Marius, Marina Prior as Cosette, Jodie Gillies as Eponine, Anthony Warlow as Enjolras, Barry Langrishe as Thenerdier and Robyn Arthur as Madam Thenardier. By the time I saw it in Melbourne, it was John Diedrich as Javert (alas! would love to have seen Quast in the role live), the amazing Sylvie Paladino as Eponine and Peter Cousens as Marius, along with some other cast changes. This show is an absolute star-maker in musical theatre, and I've seen that happen in the UK as well.

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