Thursday, 7 July 2016

"Les Miserables - School Edition"
Creatio Arts Youth
Derby Theatre.
I have a confession to make. I walked out of the auditorium at Derby Theatre an emotional mushy mess. I have never experienced the level of mass audience adoration and adulation than here with this show. And quite rightly so!
I've seen a few other performances of "Les Mis" and , taking nothing away from any other performance of the show, this is the best that I have seen. The whole staging of the show was just amazing and director Matt Powelland assistant director Oliver Wheddon should be incredibly proud of what they have produced here.
The innnovative revolving stage meant that scene changes were done with the greatest of ease and fluidity and the set with it's barricade was impressive along with the practicality of allowing the actors access to and from the stage in another direction apart from the wings.
One of the songs from the musical is "Stars" and this company has many stars that shine very bright.
Ryan Wiggins as Javert, the police officer hell bent on recapturing Jean Valjean was just one of the very talented vocalists, drawing a massive round of applause for "Stars". Fixated on Valjean he ended up taking his own life when he decided he was unable rto accept that it was either going to be Javert or Valjean. Wonderful characterization by Ryan.
Lizzy Ives (Fantine) produced a very mature performance as the beautiful Parisian grisette abandoned with a small child by her lover Félix Tholomyès. Valjean takes her in after she loses her job and is accused of assault, but sadly dies in Valjean's arms.Her version of "I Dreamed A Dream" was the ultimate version I've heard. Great power and emotion form one of such tender years. I was blown away.
The Thenardiers are a brilliant comedy pair. Masters of their house and as innkeepers, they abuse Cosette as a child and extract payment from Fantine for her support, until Valjean takes Cosette away. Alex Dickensonand Grace Orgill are wonderfully entertaining together and in their own right in character and I loved the attitude and sass from Grace. their song "Masters Of The House" was another great crowd pleaser and a welcome distraction to the seriousness of the storyline.
Marius falls in love with Cosette and fights on the barricades when he believes Valjean has taken her to London. Valjean saves him and Marius and Cosette marry and are both with Valjean when he dies, just after confessing to who he really was. Nic Gordon, in his second performance in Les Mis, shows a wonderful flair for the role and he also has one of those voices you could just listen to for ages.His version of "Empty Chairs" was breath taking.
Eponine, one of the Thenardier's daughters has a crush on Marius, which is unrequited. Georgie Bond, another classy vocalist, delivers a beautifully emotional performance and her death scene is done with just the right amount of passion. one of the most emotional scenes in the musical. Her version of "On My Own" was spine-tingling.
Cossette, the daughter of Fantine and ward of Valjean is played by Hope Redfern. When she hit those notes, she made the hair on your body electric.
Enjoleas, passionately committed to republican principles and the idea of progress.and leader of Les Amis de l'ABC (Friends of the ABC) in the Paris uprising is played by Paddy Stamford. It's quite hard to believe that this young man is only 17 years old as his acting and singing is mature beyond his 17 years.
Gavroche, one of the Thenardier's sons and lives on his own as a street urchin. He takes part in the barricades and is killed while collecting bullets. Gavroche is played by Bailey West and has a big future in musical theatre with his confident singing and totally believable acting skills.
I'm sure that no one who has seen this show will deny that the star of Creatio's incredible show is Zak Charlesworth (Jean Valjean). this is the third time that Zak has played this role and I have never seen Zak look so relaxed and comfortable in a role as in this one. i also have not heard Zak sing the way he did tonight. It was like listening to a born West End star. I've heard Zak sing and seen him perform many times but it was like seeing and hearing a new Zak tonight. His show stopping performance of "Bring Him Home" gave me goose bumps from that first line and the audience obviously agreed with me by giving him the longest round of applause after the song and in the final bows. Every artist is remembered for one signature song and I think this will be Zak's. His vocals in this show were nothing less that magical.
A talented ensemble completed the cast list and produced a wonderful wall of sound. talking of sound, the orchestra, under the guidance of Sam Griffiths were just wonderful. i've not heard an orchestra complement a vocal cast so beautifully balanced
Some wonderful costumes created just the right period feel for the show. Slickly stage managed by Lucy Young and Paul Wheddon and lighting designed by Tom Mowat. That man gets everywhere, but that explains why so many productions have excellent lighting!
i love this show, who doesn't, but this production has that edge to it. Whether it's the ridiculously talent laden cast, the amazing set or the wonderful music, i don't know, i just know that this musical just got me tonight. Let;s face it when you have such rousing pieces of music like "Can You Hear The People Sing", "One Day More" and "Red And Black" alongside songs like "I Dreamed A Dream", "Bring Him Home" and "Stars", you just can't help but feel some emotion. And that is what musical theatre is all about, evoking emotion.
Matt Powell and the rest of Creatio, you are all amazing people and deserve every accolade and every standing ovation because you all have that special talent of entertaining and making an old(ish) man moist around the eyes, and that does not happen very often.
"Les Miserables" is on at Derby Theatre until Friday 8 July 2016.

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