I may be prone to occasional hyperbole, but I’m going to come right out and say it: Cameron Mackintosh’s Les Miserables at Norwich Theatre Royal is truly the best stage production I’ve ever seen.
It’s arrival has been long awaited and tickets have sold in the thousands as Norfolk has anticipated the most compelling and epic musical of all times – Les Miserables!
Expect tears and laughter as this tragic story unfolds but don’t expect the original West End version. Not that you’ll be disappointed. Producer Cameron Mackintosh has brilliantly given this new stage production the cinematic feel of his 2012 movie with Hugh Jackman. It’s so dynamic, visually stunning and three dimensional that you really do feel that you’re there in 19th Century Paris.
I won’t lie, by the end you’ll feel like you’ve had a good emotional purge but if you’re only going to see one thing this year – then I highly recommend you see Les Miserables. It’s on until Sat 4th April but be quick as tickets are limited.
Something that struck me within the first few minutes was how the costumes, lighting and staging combined so beautifully – it was truly breathtaking. I’m told that Cameron Mackintosh is a stickler for detail and after experiencing this production, I can quite believe it. The choreography was so fluid and en point that it gave me goosebumps.
The Theatre Royal stage isn’t particularly large yet every inch of it was expertly filled to create the prison ships, the church, the Tavern, the barricade and all the other locations to wonderful effect. There was also some very clever and surprisingly high-tech use of projection techniques to recreate the Parisian sewers and the river Seine – unexpected, immersive and very effective.
Like a traditional opera, every line of dialogue is sung – there isn’t a spoken word in it. In order to make that work for a more mainstream audience, the performances really do have to be exceptional and they all were. Even the characters who only sang one or two lines sounded like they could have carried a main part. Special mentions must to go to Frances Mayli McCann, as Éponine and Nic Greenshields as Javert who sang and played their roles with brilliant passion, torment and unrequited love.
It is to be expected however that the star of the show was Dean Chisnall as Jean Valjean. His vocal performances were powerful and dramatic as well as sensitive and touching (to the extent that Mr O confessed that his face got a bit wet during Chisnall’s beautiful rendition of ‘Bring him home’.) Jean lives a lifetime over the three hour performance (trust me it flys by) and Dean’s portrayal of each poignant stage was beautifully delivered in the subtle mannersisms of age.
Norwich Theatre Royal has worked with Cameron Mackintosh Limited to help as many people see the performance as possible. Of the 42,000 people booked to come and see the show, 2500 of them will have had the opportunity to buy tickets for just £10, opening up the theatre and this production to many who would not normally be able to see it.
They have also invited a number of high school parties to attend free of charge – evidence, if any were needed, that under Chief Executive Stephen Crocker and his team, Norwich Theatre Royal’s outreach programme is alive and well.
This production of Les Miserables will make you smile, laugh out loud and cry tears of sadness and I urge you to see it. Like me, it might just be the best thing you’ve ever seen!