Les Misérables at The Q
Les Misérables, based on the 1862 Victor Hugo novel, is the kind of musical you’d think most directors would be dying to get their hands on, and many have. The original production, by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, premiered in Paris in 1980, and went on to become the fifth longest-running Broadway show in history.
Now, Canberra’s own Free-Rain Theatre is taking on the international smash-hit, playing at The Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre from the 4th to the 22nd of April. I went along to the preview of Les Misérables, which was stunning to say the least.
Following the success of Free-Rain Theatre’s production of Wicked last year, they’ve decided to tackle one of the greatest musicals of all time. Producer Anne Somes has brought together an array of Canberra artists, both experienced and emerging, to tell the emotional story of ex-convict, 24601, Jean Valjean as he runs from the ruthless Inspector Javert. Hugo’s original tale is adapted faithfully to the stage, as audience members become acquainted with the likes of Jean Valjean and Javert, as well as Fantine, her daughter Cosette, Marius, Eponine, and the Thénardiers. The strength of the story lies in its ability to deal with so many things in one story: politics, poverty, social and legal justice, the battle between good and evil, identity, and romance. Les Misérables remains faithful to the original story, despite its length and complexity.
The score, with its revolutionary-patriotic fervour, is hugely demanding, yet Free-Rain’s cast perform it excellently. Peter Lockyer (The Phantom of the Opera) plays Jean Valjean remarkably well, bringing an intensity that is matched only by his powerful tenor. There is incredible support by Tony Falla as Javert and Nicole Carr as Eponine, who stays faithful to her role whilst giving the most emotive performance of the production. In each of her songs, she performs flawlessly, touching the hearts of the audience and evoking feelings of empathy for her character. Sam Ward, who plays Marius, is also excellent; he gives a heartrending performance, particularly during ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’, which was one of the best songs of the night.
Under the talented musical direction of Nicholas Griffin, Les Misérables is truly brought to life. The choreography and ensemble work in particular create strong imagery that makes up for the small-scale set. Compared with their larger productions, the minimalist setting worked particularly well here; it provided the level of intimacy necessary for audiences to connect with the story and characters.
The opening night ended spectacularly, as audience members rose to a standing ovation – a testament to the brilliance of Free-Rain Theatre’s work.
Les Misérables will be playing at the Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre until April 22nd. Bookings available through 6285 6290 or theq.net.au