I’m not sure if this review needs much more than, ‘Wow! Go see this immediately!’…But I will try to be a little more descriptive as to why you should go, at least for those of you like me that do not know the story as well as you should, even if it has been packing out theatres worldwide since 1985!
The musical is based on Victor Hugo’s great 19thCentury novel, Les Misérables and is set during a period of great social and political unrest in France and living conditions of the poor were grim. The musical begins with our hero, Jean Valjean, who was arrested for stealing some bread to feed his sister’s baby and imprisoned for 19 years. He is granted leave, breaks his parole and begins a new life. Fast forward 8 years and he is now the owner of a factory and finds himself indebted to one of his workers, Fantine, and will do whatever he can to take care of her young illegitimate daughter, Cosette, living with the terrible Monsieur and Madame Thénardier. Fast forward another 9 years, the revolution is on the rise, Cosette has grown up and a young rebel student Marius has fallen in love with her. His friend Eponine (the Thénardier’s grown up daughter) is secretly in love with him and a tricky love triangle begins. Act two sees the revolution continue, tragic deaths and a marriage all of which will keep you on the edge of your seat right until the end.
The story is dark, melancholy, helpless at times, funny at others and really transports you to life in early 1800’s France. The show moves so quickly, one enthralling song after another. Many of the songs have simple tunes that you find yourself humming along to by the second verse, especially Master of the House which is good fun! The acting and singing was absolutely superb and although the entire cast were completely perfect, I must give particular mention of course to Killian Donnelly (Jean Valjean), Nic Greensheilds (Javert), Katie Hall (Fantine), Martin Ball (Monsieur Thénardier) and Sophie-Louise Dann (Madame Thénardier. Lyrics were enunciated very clearly so you can easily follow what is happening. The live orchestra completes this show with beautiful music to set the scene and leaves you humming the tunes all the way home.
The staging was magnificent, it changed seamlessly from one scene to the next. One moment you’re in a factory, the next in the backstreets with the ladies and their clients and the next at the Thérnardier’s dodgey pub or the barricades, you hardly even notice the set changing. The show has been refreshed for the 21stcentury and now includes a background screen with some digital moving images (based on paintings by Victor Hugo) that tie in flawlessly with the set without taking away from the forbidding atmosphere of the times.
For tickets: Best availability Monday to Thursday performances. Call the theatre’s dedicated Les Misérables booking line on 01908 547669 (open Monday to Saturday, 12 – 6pm) or visit: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/les-miserables/milton-keynes-theatre/. Check daily for returns and last minute ticket releases.