Left – Simon Gleeson and Hayden Tee. Cover – the cast. Photos – Matt Murphy
Currently running at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney, Cameron Mackintosh's latest production of Les Miserables is a mixed bag of treats. Having all the ingredients for a tear-jerking night of great entertainment – gorgeous music performed by mostly competent singers and actors, action packed drama, a love story and a clever set design – the show moves seamlessly from one scene to another and its fast pace means there is never a dull moment. If it hadn't been for disappointing performances from two of the leads and an overly dark lighting design this production would have been near perfect.
In the role of Jean Valjean we witnessed the marvellous singing and acting of Simon Gleeson. His believable portrayal combined with vocal security were impressive, and the show stopping 'Bring him home' allowed Gleeson to demonstrate an amazing array of vocal colours and dynamics. As Jean Valjean's nemesis Javert, Hayden Tee strutted his stuff on stage with a magnetic masculinity and wonderfully secure and warm voice. The acting was completely convincing and apart from an inclination to 'speak' rather than 'sing' at times, his performance was inspired.
Patrice Tapoki as Fantine was heartbreaking and she captured the character's crushing sadness and desperation so well. Her sincere acting and warmth of vocal tone were a pleasure to see and hear and it's just a shame that Fantine had to die so early on in the show as I would have loved to hear more.
In the roles of Madame Thenardier and Monsieur Thenardier, Lara Mulcahy and Trevor Ashley delivered consistently secure and engaging performances. The actors' unfaltering commitment and vivid vocal characterization of these two seedy individuals was so impressive that I had to restrain myself from shouting 'for God's sake take a bath'! 'Master of the House' was a highlight of the show thanks to the energy and brilliance of Mulcahy and Ashley and more generous lighting of the stage.
Chris Durling in the role of Enjolras was another knock-out performance. Mr. Durling is the proverbial 'complete package': gorgeous to look at, a convincing actor and in possession of vocal beauty and a rock solid technique. Kerrie Anne Greenland as the poor forlorn Eponine easily seduced the audience with a heartfelt rendition of 'On My Own' and performed this show stopper with a beautiful big belt-voice and pleasing stage presence.
The weak links of the show were Cosette and Marius, the two characters who should offer the audience a pleasing diversion from the grim issues that Jean Valjean and Javert force us to consider. This loved up couple with their sweet music are an opportunity to wallow in vocal beauty and romantic fantasies. The soprano, Emily Langridge, rather than having a sweet coloratura sounded more like a fly buzzing, and Marius – sung by Euan Doidge – although physically attractive, presented a weak character. His show stopping piece 'Empty Chairs at Empty Tables' – although quite well received by the audience – was sung without diaphragmatic support which resulted in a flapping vibrato at the bottom of his range. His voice gave the impression of two different singers, so unconnected were the upper and lower registers. It seems that Langridge and Doidge have been cast for their looks rather than their vocal ability; this did not go unnoticed by the audience whose applause level didn't increase when Marius and Cosette took their bows.
All in all this production is a success and worth a look. Apart from the discrepancies in the standard of singing and the gloomy lighting design which makes for a dark show, Les Mis is a really great piece of contemporary theatre that combines wonderful music with mostly strong performances to produce an entirely convincing piece of theatre.
Cameron Mackintosh presents
by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg | based on the novel by Victor Hugo
Directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell
Venue: Capitol Theatre | 13 Campbell Street, Haymarket, NSW
Dates: from March 25, 2015