Les Misérables is a classic musical, based on the 1862 novel of the same name. First opening on Broadway in 1987 and running until 2003, it is the fifth longest running Broadway show. Numerous adaptations of the story have been produced over the years, including the more recognised 2012 film and the more recent 2018 BBC miniseries. It is no surprise that the Young Australian Broadway Chorus has chosen to adapt this particular classic musical.
Staged at The National Theatre in St Kilda, the stage itself has been transformed to allow the audience to expand their imagination, the simple use of staircases, tables, and chairs transform the stage in each scene with such simple ease – transporting the audience back to a historical moment in French history.
The cast itself is immense, with a story set over so many years the characters that the audience is introduced to tend to only make a brief appearance on stage before leaving. The only two characters that we see from start to finish are that of Jean Valjean (Bryce Gibson) and Javert (Nicholas Sheppard). Unfortunately as one of the only characters that the audience sees for the entirety of the production Gibson seemed to lack a strong enough stage presence to carry that role successfully – with a lot of his moments upon the stage feeling a little lacklustre. Opposite, Sheppard in the role of Javert was unmistakable in his character. Javert should be played as a man of strong discipline to the law, and Sheppard carried that well. Arguably one of the pinnacle moments of the play was Sheppard’s final solo, a scene that held the most weight within the entire production.
The roles of Thenardier (Jackson Hurwood) and Madame Thenardier (Madeline Horsey) also deserve a special mention. Bringing a needed comic relief to the slightly morose theme of the play, both Hurwood and Horsey embrace their roles with an almost slapstick element, audience members faces clearly lighting up when they take to the stage.
As Les Misérables is a musical, the music element of the show is obviously one of importance. Justin Jacobs head the orchestra, delivering a moving rendition of the musical’s soundtrack that received a very well deserved applause at the end. However, it must be noted that more often than not, the orchestra drowned out the solo singers quite dramatically. This left the group numbers to be the most enjoyable as they could clearly be heard by the audience. By the end it seemed that only the characters of Corsette (Jasmine Athur) and Eponine (Rhea Brendish) were strong enough to have their voices sound out over the music.
While all the cast of the main character line up deserve praise, the show would be nothing without the impressive efforts of the supporting cast. Their movements on stage seemed to be perfectly choreographed, utilising the space they had upon the stage to deliver a show that immersed the audience greatly. One supporting character in particular, Gavroche (Cameron Langeveld) managed to grab the attention of every audience member it seemed at any point he took to the stage. There was an audible, communal gasp during a pivotal moment that could be heard repeated throughout the entire theatre.
As with most of the Young Australian Broadway Chorus’ productions Les Misérables holds its own against productions with performers of an older age. The fact that the cast are between the ages of 8 – 18 is deeply impressive (and may incite a little self doubt in audience members as they try to think of what they’ve done with their lives). Les Misérables is definitely a classic, and the Young Australian Broadway Chorus’ adaption is one that will live true to the original, definitely worth seeing.
Les Misérables is showing at the National Theatre from 18th January – 26th January. Tickets can be purchased via the Les Miz website, though at the time of publication of this review, the run was sold out.