“ Les Miserables the musical is the third longest running show in Broadway history. „
Les Miserables' is one of the biggest musicals around and the longest running in its 27th year. If you are a fan of musicals or just enjoy catching a live show every now and then, this one might be one you have already seen or one to definitely check out. It is also a show that would suit everyone and attracts a wide audience because of the range of themes within it and has a story that works perfectly when turned into a musical show.
'Les Miserables' takes place in Queen's theatre, on Shaftesbury Avenue located in Piccadilly Circus/Leicester Square, the closest underground stations are either Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly line/Bakerloo line) or Leicester Square (Piccadilly line/Northern line) not far from China Town both only a short walk from the stations and a perfect location to catch dinner after the show - but the worst location if your returning home when all the shows finish around the same time.
'Les Miserables' can be seen from Monday to Saturday in the evenings at 7.30pm. Matinee shows can be seen on Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm. There are no shows on Sunday. The show runs for 2 hours and 50 minutes with one intermission of around 15 minutes in the middle.
The shows ticket prices stay the same most of the year round. You won't save any money by booking tickets in advance, but you might save money booking tickets last minute, either online or booking on the day from the box offices in Leicester Square, although your seats might not be as as you preferred. Below are the different areas you could choose from, but officially Queen's Theatre offer: Stalls, Royal Circle, Upper Circle and Standing area (Balcony - back of the theatre).
* Stalls: Stalls are usually all on one flat level without much of a gradient and all the stall seats are located in roughly the front half of the theatre, are on a level lower than the stage and so you will be looking up at the stage from these seats which means you might miss some of the stage features on the floor for example. Just make the decision of which tickets you go for in the stalls according to the row number offered; back rows of the stalls are bad seats in my opinion - the best of the stalls are normally roughly near the front and in the centre. Stalls prices for Les Mis are around £100 for premium seats near the front and around £70-£60 at other stall seats, like near the back and around the sides.
* Dress Circle: Dress circle I think are best viewing seats as long as you are at the front. Seats we have chosen have previously been near the front of this lot and there are stunning views to be seen. The Dress Circle is lower than the Upper Circle and slightly forward so the views will be better. You are also at a good level in relation to the stage, so you will get a better view of it, you won't be looking up like you do when in the stalls which I think is great - better at seeing some of the effects like the rotating floor etc. Prices at the back and sides of the Dress Circle range from around £50-£45, but the best seats of the Dress Circle are around £60 at the front centre rows.
* Upper circle/Grand Circle: The Upper circle is very high up at Queen's theatre and front row here can be priced almost the same as seats near middle of the Dress circle. If at the front, you will have the same sort of view as that of the Dress Circle only that you will be higher and up and it might look slightly more distant. The prices are around £35-£40 if they are "restricted view" tickets or side view and £40-55 for good middle front seats.
* Balcony/'Standing area': I personally wouldn't watch a show from the standing area. This is the area right at the back of the theatre, you could literally touch the back wall and you will stand in a line behind the last row of the upper circle. You can get seats for the balcony pretty cheap, around £20.
* "Sides" vs "Centre" Rows: If the seat you choose is on the edges of the theatre (like the early or later numbers 1-4 or 22-26) these can be awkward seats most times as you might not get the "full" experience that you'd get when sitting as centrally as possible - you might have areas of the stage cut off and could ruin your experience but with Les Mis in the Queen's theatre, its really weird because these seats are priced roughly the same, and almost as high as some of the great seats in the centre front - it may be to do with demand but don't pay the same when you can get better seats!
Before you buy your tickets, it could be a good idea to check the theatre seating plan map where you can see every little seat and can check out what seats exactly you are paying for and if they look as though they are awkwardly positioned in the theatre, you may as well avoid and go for others at similar prices. Plus on the official website - www.lesmis.com/uk/ - you are able to pick a range of seats and check out what the view will be like from those particular seats which I think is a very cool feature. Normally I have always avoided side seats and mostly the stalls altogether and also have never paid more than £40 - £50 per seat for any other theatre show but for Les Mis you might have to spend a bit more than £50 for that better experience (unfortunately).
About "Les Miserables"
'Les Miserables' is in its 27th year running since it was first showing in 1985. It is based on a novel also called 'Les Miserables' by French poet Victor Hugo. Obviously originally the story was in the French language and only later was it translated into English in 1985 where it was first performed in Barbican in London. The show won an Olivier award for most popular show voted by audience in 2012, last year.
What it's about: 'Les Miserables' is about a man named Jean Valjean who breaks parole, after spending 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's children. As the story begins, we see him trying to start his life afresh but gets into more trouble with the police and is caught again by Javert. Caught stealing again, he comes across the Bishop who tells a lie to help him and this in turn helps free him, both from further time in prison and from the state of life he had been living. This Bishop had been very kind to him and encourages him positively. And so after 8 years, he has changed his name to Monsieur Madeleine and becomes an owner of a big factory. Here, he finds that one of his factory workers called Fantine has an illegitimate child but the supervisor of the workers throws her out of the factory, leaving her with no work, no money and so she takes to the streets to sell herself to make the money she needs to provide for her daughter - who we later find is named Cosette. There are these sort of demanding and challenging things Valjean goes through in this story, where he is seen to be having dealings with the police continuously on his back, his rage at those people with the power, the kindness he offers with taking care of Cosette who he promises Fantine, the intense experiences of the citizen rebellion against the French army in this post-revolutionary Paris and keeping from Cosette, as she grows up, her own background history. 'Les Miserables' like the title suggests is a sombre tale but is told beautifully and captures our imagination through the experiences we see the characters go through. There are much more serious tones than there are happy ones, but I find it very compelling and uplifting because of the journeys we see some of the characters go through as the story builds up.
The characters: Jean Valjean when he is released from prison - also known as "prisoner 24601" by Javert - is seen as a tough and hardened criminal. His hate for society is powerful, and he doesn't hold back but he soon becomes the hero of this story because of the right paths he chooses to take along the way, the friends he makes and the kindness and sentiment he is able show as well. And although we see that he is capable of affection and kind-heartedness especially when he steps in to take care of Cosette, throughout the story he still remains strong mentally and physically as he always was. The injustice to our protagonist for his treatment of petty stealing becomes stronger as viewers. The next most important character of the show might be Cosette. We see her in her childhood as a servant with a bucket cleaning the tables at the Thenardier's inn in her first scene. But as the show goes on we see her grow up into a young woman who is loyal to her father, she has been brought up the way Valjean has wanted and she turns out to be a well-educated and happy person to who she was but she develops her own issues. We also see that she has a love interest Marius which allows for some more personality development in Cosette. Another important character in the musical is Javert, the police officer who we see pursuing Vajean but whom we can not empathise with as he comes across as unfair. He sticks to his rules, shows no heart and is dedicated to completing his work. Throughout there is a constant clash between Valjean and Javert and lots of drama and it is interesting when things get heated. Few more other important characters in the show, are Fantine who we see near the start of the show - a poor working class women, the mother of Corsette and we see her go through extremes to protect her child and ensure her safely. And then there's the Thernardier's - evil and abusers of Cosette as a child, selfish and money-hungry, but very funny as characters in the show and there is Epoinine, another very interesting character, since she is the daughter of the Thernardier's where we see her helping them of course with their pitiful work - but it is interesting to see her personality change as she falls for Marius.
The cast: The cast of 'Les Miserables' on stage bring us the entertainment we paid to see and so they are expected to build up a connection with the audience as best as they can, capture our attention for around to 3 hours and leave us with an awesome musical experience. The cast were brilliant and they did a great job at doing all of that. Each of them portray their characters with acting and singing very well, the way it seemed was the best they could have, flawlessly without any obvious slip-ups and they are believable and appealing with lots of emotion, personality and humour where needed. The cast current include Gernonimo Rauch who plays Jean Vajean, Tam Mutu who is plays Jervet, Fantine played by Sierra Boggess, Cosette played by Samantha Dorsey, Marius played by Craig Mather, Eponine played by Danielle Hope (Dorothy from 'Wizard of Oz' before it closed in the West End last year) Other cast members include Cameron Blakely (Thenardier), Linzi Hateley (Madame Thenardier), Liam Tamine (Enjolras).
Themes/Issues: Issues of a cruel society and its law and beggars versus petty criminal and its unfairness, self-sacrifice and bravery, love and death and trust and childhood, saving yourself, selling yourself, the treatment of women and their place in society and the attitudes of men, are some issues that go to make up the content of Les Mis. As the show opens we are instantly shown a level of poverty and the difficulties faced by these poor people and the song 'Look Down' which opens up the show illustrates this - it feels grim and oppressive as a start but then again we didn't expect a colourful musical anyway - so it was a perfectly appropriate beginning. As the story continues, we are taken along with a mixture of many more different themes: like plenty of horrors of unfair death, poverty, 'sacrifice' and abuse, romance such as the strong relationships and the developing love between Cosette and Marius/the beauty of the father-daughter relationship between Valjean and Cosette, then there is plenty of action like the scenes of battle on the barricade and not to leave out plenty of dramatic episodes through a journey of highs and lows. Although, like I mentioned, there is more to feel gloomy about when we see some of the more saddening revelations within the drama from the start to its very final scene, it still captures plenty of humour like the behaviour of the working class and other little unexpected bits here and there which was always a welcome addition. Overall this story is packed with lots of different themes but all of it leads back to poverty and hardship.
The show/production: There is a lot going on on the stage and the pace of it is quick and the visuals are appealing - just how we would expect it to be really, so don't mistake the gloominess of its sbuject and the serious tones to Les Mis as dull! The actual stage has the effect, probably like most theatre productions, of drawing us into its setting were we see the effect of bricked paving outdoors during the night and windows and walls indoors and table and chairs, food and drink in the inns and additionally, the stage rotates on a revolving circular plate that makes up the floor of the stage to add some imaginative motion and reality to the drama. There are barricades brought onto stage later on which form in a rather outlandish way joining on either sides of the stage and used in scenes of the revolt with the actors on their guns that light and bang loudly, again keeping to the reality of the events as much as possible and really successfully. There is no spoken dialogue in the show - all is sung in a musical format unlike some others shows in the West End. I have to say I personally like a combination of spoken and sung, but then again I think the way we see it here works perfectly in this case and took us away with the powerful vocals since singing has more tendency to bring out greater emotive content.
In terms of seeing the whole production comfortably, one thing I do think strongly is when deciding on which seats to finally book, 'Les Miserables' is one show you need to really make sure you are sitting as close to the stage as you can (like in the front or near the front rows of the dress or the stalls) since it is heavily based on the emotion that these characters are trying to show and so you really need to see their facial expression etc for the best effect - if you cant see there faces, that will be one element you will miss out on. The production of this show is really not like 'Wicked' or 'Lion King' where it is all really 'massive', hugely scaled, glitzy, bright colourful lights and really OTT where you could easily get away with a brilliant experience somewhere near the back. Les Mis is slightly more subtle than that and you might risk feeling slightly disconnected when sitting near the back - that is the mistake I made the second time round when I went to watch Les Mis - I thought I could get away with it, but I definitely couldn't (Although I did end up saving a bit of money anyway...!)
Music/Songs: Since there is no spoken dialogue within the show and every bit of the story is sung, all of the songs linked from one to another tell the entire story of 'Les Miserables'. Live music from the orchestra sounded great and the songs are some of the catchiest of a lot of musicals out there. The story of 'Les Miserables' is not totally a piece of cake though - many people find it long-winded, confusing at times and you really got to concentrate, and so do I. It is sometimes difficult to follow the singing the first time you hear it especially when the songs are completely new to you and the first time I went to see it I found it difficult to pay attention to the lyrics of the songs, focusing more on the overall sound of it. So it may be a good idea to find out the basic plot before watching. The songs are still stunning though, and the sound is very powerful and intense. Some of the most popular well-known songs of Les Mis are: 'Who am I' sung by Valjean when he questions himself on who he is after stealing and he makes a wise decision at this point that we see following into the next song within the story. Another favourite is 'Do you hear the people sing' (singing the song of angry men) which is another well-known of the show since its most of the cast singing together and a song with basically sums up the entire musical and very uplifting all on its own; I Dreamed a Dream' - another favourite sung by Fantine where she is thinking back to her past and how her life was to how it is now when she is unhappy. And of course the list goes on....
If you like a good show, with great songs and lots of meaning, action and depth then you should really get yourself tickets to go and see this - It will not disappoint. I really just can't recommend this musical any more than that! Of course I cant wait to see the new 'Les Miserables' movie in the cinema but going to watch it in theatre is a much more intimate experience that you wont forget as soon as you might the film. The only downside to this musical is that the tickets prices are generally higher than most other shows unless you are willing to sit somewhere near the back, in which case your experience might be poor. Overall a brilliant quality show, and this wont be my last time I see the show, I'm sure, one of the reason why a show like this still carries on after 26th years!
Les Miserables, more commonly known as Les Mis, has now celebrated its 25th Anniversary and a well-deserved anniversary it is, too! I certainly hope that it runs for another successful 25 years as it is truly breath-taking!
The musical is based on the novel by Victor Hugo and also based on a previous French musical that proved to be unsuccessful.
I don't want to give too many spoilers here as part of the joy of the musical is going on the journey with the characters but it begins in a prison camp with a man by the name of Jean Valjean. He has served his time and is set free on parole and makes his way to the house of a Priest. While there he steals from the Priest and although he is caught in the act, the Priest intervenes to save him stating that he did not steal from him and by giving him more silver. The Priest tells him to make an honest man of himself with this money and the story begins. The story then traces the life of Jean Valjean as he rises to success but is pursued by a policeman who wants to take him back to prison. All of this takes place at the time of the French Revolution and we meet characters such as Cosette, a poor young girl who's mother fell pregnant with her out of wedlock and subsequently paid the landlord of an inn to care for here and Marius, a idealistic French student who participates in the battles of the Revolution.
My first experience of it was as a very young child. My dad decided to take the family to Les Mis as it was playing nearby in Edinburgh. I was only 7 years old at the time and my dad was a bit concerned that I would be restless, especially with such a daunting storyline for a small child to follow. However, I was transfixed for the whole performance and still remember it vividly despite the fact I was so young. My parents subsequently took me to other musicals as I grew older and none sticks in my mind as vividly as Les Mis. True, at 7 I didn't really understand the story but I think it is testament to the power of the music and performance that I still was so taken in by the musical at such a young age.
When I recently saw it advertised as coming back to Edinburgh, I jumped at the chance to see it again as an adult and bought tickets for myself and my father. In the intervening almost 20 years since I'd first seen the musical I'd became a keen, although perhaps not as talented as I'd like, amateur musician and had became extremely familiar with the music from Les Mis through playing it on the piano and sometimes having a wee sing-song when I felt in fine voice. I actually thought that this over-familiarity with the music might somewhat ruin the musical for me as I wouldn't be so swept along with the story because I'd be too busy trying to stifle my urge to burst into song.
However, I was very, very wrong. The minute I sat down in the theatre I was that same transfixed 7 year old that had sat in the same theatre 20 years earlier. The stage settings, the costumes, the music and the story swept me along just as it had the first time and I was so engaged that the thought of having a sing song didn't once enter my mind.
I've seen many, many musicals in my time and well, to say the least, they can be a bit twee. Les Mis is very different to most musicals, however. Don't expect cheesy music, brash sets, camp dancing and a feel, good atmosphere. It is quite a dark musical full of destitution, death, suffering and the harsh realities of war but it manages to touch parts of the soul that no movie, musical or theatre production will easily do again! There was one point in the musical where the whole theatre was sobbing....how many shows have you been to that the audience have been so engaged by the story that that has happened? I must say it was a first for me!
As I say, the musical is dark and the music has to match in parts. I think it would be best described as soulful and the music really captures the essence of the emotions being portrayed: the tenderness of love, the hopeful chants of victory over oppression, the searching a man has to do of his soul to find out who he truly is and what he truly wants. There is very little light relief in the musical (with the exception being the presence of the mischievous landlord) but you don't feel that you are missing out without it. The music is truly, truly beautiful particularly when you know the story that accompanies it and I can honestly say that virtually every number in the show lives up to what has gone previously. None of it is disappointing.
Cost clearly varies depending on what theatre you go to see it, what time of day and what seats you choose and I can only give a very broad ball-park figure but expect to pay around £25-100 ticket depending on where the performance is held. However, it is very much worth the money. I am currently a skint student who counts every penny and has to justify spending even £5 on lunch but I would give £50 for a ticket in a heartbeat to see this again a third time.
To sum up, even if you are not a 'musical' person, this is not your average musical. It is truly a fully immersive once in a lifetime experience. I really doubt anyone could be disappointed by this musical, so if you are ever in London, see if you can get a ticket and if it ever comes to a theatre near you, snap a ticket up!
51 Shaftesbury Avenue
London W1D 6BA
0870 950 0930
First of all, I LOVE this show, so this will be a very effusive review! I was introduced to Les Mis by my music teacher who took us on a school trip to see it when I was 16. I have since seen it 7 further times professionally and one amateur production by under 18s.
I have got the 10th anniversary DVD and the 25th anniversary Blu-ray. So I think you can safely say I'm a bit of a Les Mis nut!
I have run my own school trip to see it a few years ago - the kids I took loved it as well - yay for new Les Mis converts! I took my daughter to see an amateur production locally and she loved it so much I said I would take her to London to see it for her tenth birthday. My Dad also came with us, and it is this visit this review is about.
We went on the 6th August 2011 and were disappointed to find out that this was not one of Alfie Boe's nights - it would have been nice to see him, as he is a local lad! But we had Matt Lucas and I had heard good things about Jonathan Williams.
There are only three cubicles in the ladies toilets and in the short time it took me to find our seats, dump our snacks and walk back up to the toilets for the regulatory pre-show visit, the queue was trailing round the corner! It took 15 minutes till it was my turn. I don't think anyone missed the beginning of the show - but it might be an idea to get there early.
We had seats on the front row of the dress circle and my daughter had to get TWO booster cushions to enable her to see over the rather tall barrier designed to prevent us from falling into the stalls. Even my Dad went and got himself one - he's not awfully tall - bless him! But once sufficiently boosted, everyone in our little party could see the stage.
The show was absolutely fantastically amazing. Jonathan Williams was an incredibly sombre and desperate Valjean at the start, which made his transformation even more poignant. Matt Lucas was hilarious as comedy villain Thénardier,and the producers added a few tweaks to take advantage of his wonderful comic talent. Hadley Fraser was a compellingly fierce Javert and Alexia Khadime a stunning Eponine. I'm not sure who the little boy who played Gavroche was, but he was fantastic! Really stole every scene.
My daughter and my Dad both loved the three-hour show and obviously I loved it - again! I could watch this show every night of my life and never get bored of it. The music is amazing, the scenery is spectacular, the actors are dazzling - there are simply not enough superlatives to describe this extraordinary show. Take tissues! It will make you laugh and cry and clap so hard your hands sting. At the end, the entire audience rose on their feet as one to give the cast a well-deserved standing ovation.
Go to see Les Mis. You won't regret it!
If you don't want to know the story in advance, don't read the synopsis.
Jean Valjean has been imprisoned for the last nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. He is released on parole, but no one will employ him or give him lodging. He is taken in by a kindly Bishop, who he repays by stealing his silver. When the Bishop lies to the police and allows him to go free, he is overcome by remorse and humility and vows to be a new man. He breaks his parole and goes on the run.
Eighty years on and he is the Mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer and a factory owner. A factory worker, Fantine, has an illegitimate child, Cosette, who lives with the Thénardiers, a pair of cruel innkeepers, who treat her like a slave and extort money out of Fantine who believes her daughter is ill and dying. She is found out and sacked by the lecherous foreman whose advances she has rejected and, destitute and desperate, she turns to prostitution. She becomes ill, is attacked by a prospective client and eventually dies in hospital, but not before wrenching a promise from Jean Valjean that he will care for her daughter.
Meanwhile, Inspector Javert has been hunting for the prisoner who broke parole ten years ago. When he sees Valjean rescue a badly injured man from a runaway cart, he is put in mind of the incredible strength of the prisoner who escaped. But, Javert says, Monsieur le Maire cannot be Valjean as they have found him and he comes to court today. Valjean cannot bear to see an innocent man punished for his crimes and confesses that he is the man Javert is looking for. He and Javert fight in the hospital and Valjean escapes.
Valjean travels to the evil Thénardiers' inn where they are abusing Cosette and rescues her, paying 1,500 francs. Valjean and Cosette flee to Paris.
Ten years later, the Thénardiers are also living in Paris with Eponine, their true daughter. She is in love with Marius, a student. His friends are disaffected with the government and are planning an uprising. The Thénardiers plot to rob Valjean in the street, but when they accost him, Thénardier recognises him as being the man who took Cosette ten years previously. Marius and Cosette bump into each other in the kerfuffle and fall instantly in love. Javert appears and breaks up the scene, but Valjean and Cosette run away without being seen. Javert suspects that he may be Jean Valjean and swears to catch him.
Gavroche, a street urchin and friend to the students, overhears Javert and knows who he is - an important detail for a later plot development.
Marius persuades Eponine to find where Cosette lives but while they are vowing their love for each other in the garden, Thénardier appears with his gang to rob the house. Eponine warns them with a scream and Valjean thinks it is Javert come to arrest him. He decides to pack and run away to England the next day.
Meanwhile the students plan their uprising for the next day also, to coincide with the funeral of General Lamarque, the only people-friendly politician.
The students erect their barricade and Javert pretends to join them, offering to spy on the troops, but really he is there to spy on them. Gavroche recognises him and gives him away. The students tie him up, planning on dealing with him later.
Marius asks Eponine to take a love letter to Cosette, which she does, but Valjean intercepts it, reads it and, realising that Cosette and Marius are in love, changes his plans and joins the rebels on the barricade. Eponine is shot returning to the barricade and dies in Marius' arms. After the first attack, Valjean saves Enjolras' life (the student leader) and wins his trust. He asks to be allowed to 'take care' of the spy Javert and, thinking Valjean will shoot Javert, Enjolras allow it. But Valjean releases Javert and lets him escape, even telling him his address where he can be found, if he survives the night. As the rebels sleep, Valjean prays to God to keep Marius safe.
There is another attack the next day. Gavroche is killed retrieving bullets from the soldiers' pouches. All the others except Valjean and Marius are killed. Valjean drags an injured Marius into the sewers where Thénardier is robbing the bodies. Valjean collapses under Marius' weight and, while he is resting, Thénardier robs Marius, thinking he is dead.
Javert confronts Valjean in the sewers and Valjean begs to be allowed to take Marius to the hospital. Javert agrees begrudgingly and then, unable to live in a world where a criminal could have compassion and be a good man, he commits suicide by jumping into the Seine.
After the rebellion is over, the lost students are mourned by the townspeople and by a recovering Marius, who is with Cosette, but does not know who rescued him. Valjean confesses his past to Marius and says he has to leave, making Marius promise never to tell Cosette the truth.
Cosette and Marius are married and, at the wedding breakfast, the Thénardiers appear and try to bribe Marius, saying that they have proof Cosette's father is a criminal, showing a ring that Thénardier took off a 'corpse' that Valjean was dragging through the sewers. Marius recognises his own ring and realises it was Valjean who had saved him. He grabs Cosette and rushes to the house, where Valjean is dying of a broken heart through his utter despair at losing Cosette forever. He begs God to take him now and the spirit of Fantine appears saying he has led a good life and will be with God.
Cosette and Marius burst in and Valjean is happy that he will see Cosette again before he dies. Tearfully, Cosette forbids him to die and he says he will try to obey. But it is too late; the spirits of Fantine, Eponine and the students come to take him to Heaven and he joins them as Cosette sobs at his passing.
(this review has also appeared on ciao.co.uk)
I would class Les Miserables as one of the two biggest shows in the West End. This is based on longevity, quality of characters and music, scale, and how memorable the show is when you leave the theatre. The other is The Phantom of the Opera, although The Lion King is gaining on them.
Les Miserables (Les Mis) has been homed in different theatres in the West End for 23 years. That's an awfully long time - think about how long The Lord of the Rings lasted, and how you blinked and missed Gone with the Wind. It might not have had the lifespan of The Mouse Trap but, with all due respect, the only reason people see The Mouse Trap is to see why it's always been there.
Les Mis tells the story of Jean Valjean, a paroled convict struggling to live within the law. As the law is often harsh and unfair, he falls foul of it and is forced to turn fugitive. He is pursued by Javert, a police inspector, who spends years trying to track him down. The scenes where these two characters crackle with tension, and the hatred is conveyed superbly in the music. The relationship between Valjean and Javert calls into question the differing ideas of the Law, Justice and Morality. We actually pity both characters, one because he is hunted down, the other because he believes he is doing the right thing.
While the relationship between Valjean and Javert drives the action, others give the play its heart. As with so much of the play, it is a series of unfortunate events that see Valjean taking custody of a young girl, Cosette. This is the closest Valjean comes to a sense of domestic happiness, and again it is spoilt by Javert's pursuit.
This leads to Cosette's meeting a young, idealistic student, Marius. The two fall in love, but Marius is involved with a group of students, keen to start a new revolution. This idealistic, potentially dangerous, sense of right provides an interesting contrast to Javert's cold enforcement of the existing codes of law.
This all sounds quite heavy and dramatic, but there are some superb comic moments. Most of these are provided by the innkeeper, Monsieur Thenardier and his wife. Initially they are the guardians of Cosette, but following Valjean's intercession they recur as parasites thriving on the misfortunes and losses of others. Their brazen attempts at self-fulfilment are very funny and the song 'Master of the House' brings the House down!
People watch these epic musicals for their use of effects, as well as the music and narrative. Les Mis is a superb example of what it's possible to create in a theatre. The way scenery flies in from all directions and the way it famously morphs into the barricades during the revolution is spectacular.
The greatest element of the show has to be the music. The entire performance is sung, although Valjean did say the word 'Go' at one point, if you wanted to be REALLY pedantic about it! I've already touched on some of the comedic and dramatic numbers, but there are many others portraying the loneliness of childhood, love - both reciprocated and unrequited, and the determination of a sense of right.
Les Mis, more than any other musical, touches the audience emotionally. The characters are complicated, driven and often confused. The lyrics are intelligent and moving. The whole show is carried sumptuously on its music, from the first glimpse of French hardship to the last bow of the curtain call.
51 Shaftesbury Avenue
London, W1D 6BA
Tel: 0844 482 5160
Evenings at 7.30 Monday to Saturday
Matinees at 2.30 Wednesday and Saturday
The performance runs approximately 2 hours, 50 minutes which includes a 20 minute interval. Latecomers will not be admitted until a suitable break in the performance.
Stalls: £55.00 £42.50 £32.50 £25.00*
Dress Circle: £55.00 £42.50 £32.50 £25.00
Upper Circle : £42.50 £32.50 £20.00* £15.00*
* Restricted view
Les Miserables is the musical based on the book of the same name by Victor Hugo.
Set in France, Les Miserables follows the life of Jean Valjean and the people whose lives he affects. Imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's baby, Valjean manages to escape, and is pursued by the dogged policeman Javert. With France on the verge of Revolution, the story is picked up years later, with Valjean having started a new life under a new identity as the mayor of a small town, where he protects and supports a multitude of people. He becomes embroiled in the student revolutions, all the while fearing that Javert will track him down.
The Performances and music
Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's much loved is full of brilliant music, with the mood completely dictated by the music. The version I have seen is the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performance with stars such as Colm Wilkinson and Michael Ball as lead parts. The entire cast exude emotion when singing, and it is one of my favourite musicals. The DVD for this also shows 50 different Valjeans from around the world performing at the same time, and is amazing.
The first time I saw Les Mis, I was perhaps a little too young to appreciate the quality and story I was witnessing. Fast forward a few years, and in my late teens I saw it again and was taken aback by the sheer level of genius on show. Boublil and Schonberg have created a phenomenon here, and I will always cherish the various musical pieces, whether they be accompanied by vocals or not.
I rate this at 5 stars out of 5.
This review may also be posted on ciao.co.uk.
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I saw Les Miserables (or Les Mis to it's fans) a couple of years ago so it wont have the same cast now. However I think whoever they cast will be fantastic as I could not fault one member when I saw it. As far as I am concerned Les Mis is the best musical I have seen, on stage or as a film. How it only got into the teens in the 100 greatest musicals on C4 I will never know. The musical is an adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel of the same name. It starts with the character Jean Valjean as he is released from a chain gang after serving umpteen years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's baby. It is set in pre-revolutionery France so it all looks a bit miserable and nearly everyone is very poor and raggedy. Valjean skips his bail notice as no-one is giving him a job knowing he is a convicted criminal and he starts his own life. We catch up with him some years later when he has done fairly well for himself. We meet one of his hard-done-to employees (soon to be an ex-employee) Fantine and this is where the story starts to kick in. When Fantine dies (sorry to spoil it), Valjean promises to look after Fantine's young daughter, Cosette, who lives with an unscrupulous landlord, Thenardier and his wife, who live on the edge of Paris with their own daughter Eponine. All the while, Valjean is being pursued by an over-zealous probation officer called Javert who will never give up finding the ever-elusive Valjean. We meet a host of characters along the way and then catch up with them several years later when Cosette and Eponine have grown into two very different young women. By this time, the revolution is about to kick off under the leadership of students Marius and Enjrolas. The musical goes on for about three hours and it is full of fantastic sad, funny and meaningful songs. It goes from very miserable (as per the title) to very uplifting and you will not be dry-eyed by the time you leave. I have bought the
soundtrack on CD which I play a lot and love every time. The songs are fantastic, the actors spot on and the set and costumes appropriate to the simplicity and also the complexity of the story.
Jean Valjean, released on parole after 19 years on the chain gang, finds that the yellow ticket-of-leave he must, by law, display condemns him to be an outcast. Only the saintly Bishop of Digne treats him kindly and Valjean, embittered by years of hardship, repays him by stealing some silver. Valjean is caught and brought back by police, and is astonished when the Bishop lies to the police to save him, also giving him two precious candlesticks. Valjean decides to start his life anew.