Left - Chris Herden and Bradley McCaw. Cover - Chris Herden and Kate Andrew
There’s a nervous anticipation in seeing pro-am musical theatre. You’re pulling for them. To rise above the radio microphone failures. The missed cues. The stagehand who doesn’t quite make it to the wings before the lights come up. You’re riding the really big notes with them, willing the pivotal moments.
And when they hit the highest note, when a scene conveys genuine pathos, when a stage of bright, shiny faces – with infectious enthusiasm, if nothing else, but with loads of talent too – fills the auditorium with a stirring sound it can be the most satisfying theatrical experience.
This Les Misérables will put a broad smile on your face. Claude-Michel Schönberg’s score is unquestionably among the greatest musicals ever written, and the aficionados of Ignatians Musical Society deliver a pretty impressive production at the Schonell Theatre.
This is a labour of love for many; from the really clever staging (the battle scenes at the barricades are terrific), effective lighting and sound design and dazzling costuming faithful to the revolutionary times, and a tight, well-rehearsed orchestra under the co-batons of Harmony Woollett and Edgar Chan. Experienced director and choreographer Simone de Haas pulls it all together quite seamlessly, efficiently conveying exposition that moves at a swift pace in the first act.
The stage bursts with talent. It is a uniformly excellent cast, right down to each member of the large chorus who really do give it their all.
Indeed, each performer is a reminder of how good these songs are: Kate Andrew (Fantine) has her Susan Boyle moment with I Dreamed a Dream, Kirby Lunn (Eponine) battled the worst of the sound glitches this night but still breaks your heart with On My Own, Luke Venables (Enjolras) is the rousing leader in Do You Hear The People Sing?, Alan Miles and Lauren van de Ven (Thénardier and Madame Thénardier) are perfectly-cast clowns in Master Of The House, Bradley McCaw (Marius) and Bethan Ellsmore (Cosette) are the sweetest of lovebirds in A Heart Full Of Love, and a collection of kids make mums terribly proud in cute renditions of Castle On A Cloud and Little People.
Both leads are great. As Jean Valjean, Chris Herden over-cooks his big moments just a touch but the booming tenor never cracks and he handles the falsetto of Bring Him Home admirably. Chris Kellet is especially sturdy as Javert, delivering the stirring Stars with aplomb.
And after a rapturous applause, the reprise of One Day More just about lifts the roof. Technical glitches are drowned out and forgotten.
Lovers of musical theatre won’t be disappointed. It’s great fun.
Ignatians Musical Society presents
Director Simone de Haas
Venue: Schonell Theatre, University of Queensland
Dates: September 18 to 16 October
Times: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm & Wednesday October 14th at 7.30pm
Matinees: from the 2nd week on Saturdays and Sundays at 1.30pm
Tickets: $45.00 Adults, $35.00 Concession and $125.00 for a Family (two Adults, two Concessions)
Bookings: Ignatians Ticket Office on 07 3371 2751 | www.ignatians.com.au