LES MISERABLES (School Edition)
Nottingham Arts Theatre
Beginning in 1815 and culminating in the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris, we follow the lives and interactions of several characters, particularly the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption through to his death.
Very powerful and at times emotional; especially striking was the black silhouettes of the barricade revolutionaries against a blood red backdrop as they sang "Red & Black".
Forget the film version, this is so much better on stage and the 62 student actors were just amazing in their roles.
Jean Valjean was played by a newcomer to my eyes and ears, believe me I would have remembered that voice, Curtis Taylor-Tipton. An amazing stage presence and WOW! what a voice he has. The kind of voice that makes the hairs go up on your arms and the back of your neck. Just hear him sing "Bring Him Home". Curtis is destined for a long career in the theatre if he wants it. An incredible piece of casting.
So many other characters were also so well cast. Luke Grainger as Inspector Javert, another very strong voice and stage presence with a natural acting air about him.
Natasha Brown as Eponine, crystal clarity in her voice, Scarlett Wainwright (Fantine) dragged every little bit of emotion out of "I Dreamed A Dream", you really felt her pain about what she had to go through to try and provide money for her daughter, Cosette, played by alternating actors Izabella Keen and Jasmine Warder, depending on which performance you see.
Callum Shay was the best that I have seen him as The Foreman. I think nasty characters suit Callum because he really looked like he relished intimidating the women in his workhouse. Nice to see him up front on stage as opposed to one of the lesser characters as in last week's "Out There" at the Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
Paice Lees (Enjolras), also turned in another very strong performance vocally and character wise.
Two roles that I especially enjoyed, if only for the light relief they bought to the proceedings were Monsieur & Madame Thenadier, played so well by Lucas Young and Celia Brown. They looked like they were having the times of their lives as the "guardians" of young Cosette while treating her like a slave. Lasciviously greedy by selling her to Valjean and then robbing the dead as they lay in the street. Nasty pieces of work, played by two of the nicest people you could wish to meet.
One particular young actor, who I think has a good career on stage ahead of him is Lennon Bradley (Gavroche). Has that boy got confidence or what? A wonderfully confident performance and voice. For the opening performance there was not a sign of nerves from one so young, or in fact from anyone on stage today.
It was great to hear everyone's voices on that stage and what a gorgeous sound they made. there are some very strong vocalists along with some very sweet voices. Harry Ilyk, who played the Bishop who took in Valjean after his release when no one else would has a lovely tone to his voice and hopefully will get to show it off more in future productions.
As mentioned , it was a large cast but everything ran so smooth. Set pieces were moved on and off with no detriment to the actors or our enjoyment of the musical and the lighting was absolutely brilliant, as was the overall sound and sound effects. Both lighting and sound the work of College Street Technicians and stage management by Christopher Collins.
Good to see a live orchestra under the musical direction of David Hails and waving her directorial wand, which practically guaranteed the show to be a hit, was Maggie Andrew.
Everything about this production was spot on, couldn't be more professional, even down to the souvenir programme, designed by Mike Pearson, and I'm not just saying that because I got a mention in the acknowledgements.
"Les Miserables" is on at the Notts Arts-Theatre until Sunday 15 February 2015. Don't leave getting your tickets to the last moment because once word spreads on just how good this show is, you may have trouble getting them.