The cast of over 100 performers aged between 10 and 21 sang and danced up a storm on the opening night of the production at National Theatre Melbourne.
Indeed at times it was hard to believe the cast were so young.
Set against the backdrop of 19th-century revolutionary France and based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel of the same name, Les Misérables is the story of Jean Valjean, a petty thief given a second chance through an act of compassion he is determined to imitate.
Breaking his parole, he becomes a successful businessman and his life seems settled until he helps one of his former factory workers – Fantine, who was unjustly fired from his company.
On her deathbed Valjean promises to look after her young daughter Cosette. At the same time he comes across the policeman, Javert, who has been chasing him since he broke parole. Their personal battle comes to a head against the backdrop of France’s June Rebellion.
One of the highlights of this production, from Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, is the music. The Chorus’ performers, together with the orchestra of 16 members (aged between 16 and 21), brilliantly bring that music to life on stage.
The roles of Jean Valjean and Javert provide Bryce Gibson and Nicholas Sheppard respectively the chance to showcase their many skills in two extremely demanding roles.
The vocal and dramatic skills of Jasmine Arthur as Cosette, Rhea Brendish as Eponine and Emily Svarnias as Fantine were other stand-out highlights of opening night. Brendish’s presentation of On My Own, Svarnia’s I Dreamed A Dream and Arthur’s In My Life / A Heart Full of Love were particularly memorable. The chemistry between Arthur and Ben Gonsalvez (Marius) added to the song’s credibility.
Performances by Madeleine Horsey and Jackson Hurwood as the as the cruel and greedy but funny innkeepers, Monsieur and Madame Thénardier were another of the show’s highlights.
Then there’s the voices of the near 100 strong ensemble which combined magnificently especially in show-stopping numbers such as One Day More.
Scenes such as The Barricade provided the opportunity for several male cast members to showcase their voices including Jordie Race-Coldrey as Enjolras.
As a result of Young Australian Broadway Chorus’ presentation last year of Wicked and my love of Les Misérables’ music, I had high expectations for this production. As a result of the work of the cast and the shows presentation, including the costumes, my expectations were exceeded.
My companion for the evening was equally impressed – especially given the age of the performers. And that’s the joy of this show – the chance to see potential stars of the future present an iconic musical.
Les Misérables is on at the National Theatre Melbourne until January 27. Visit the Les Misérables website for more information and tickets.
*Photo credit: Kit Haselden Photography.
Jenny Burns attended the opening night of Les Misérables as a guest of The Young Australian Broadcast Chorus.
Visit travelswithjb.com.au-live shows for more show reviews.
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