Les Miserables 25th anniversary tour

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Les Miserables 25th anniversary tour

Postby Barry » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:48 pm

Les Miserables- Palace theatre Manchester, January 21st 2010.

Again I am dependent on the enormous generosity of friends for being able to see this, though actually this nearly didn't happen as said paritcular friends had their car rammed by a tram as they arrived. They are ok. Car less so.

Full marks to the theatre crews who managed to do the get out of this huge new production on saturday in Cardiff, and get it all ready for a show on tuesday evening, and what a comples show. Clearly the intent was to revitalise the show, and they have done that, but also to let it tour to more venues and with less fit up time - this would suggest simplifying the show, but actually I'm not sure they've done that, certainly not visually. I really do applaud the fact that after twenty five years of the same carbon copy production Cameron Mackintosh has produced a totally new production, but crikey it is an urgent one. It simply does not stop. So much moving the whole time, and the scenes taken at a frantic lick, an almost aggresive speed, which is great for the rousing and joyous numbers, but some of the death scenes were simply too kinetic. I would say the approach has een much more literal and every change of location has some element or many elements of representation, and an appropriate digital projection - some of these were exquisite, especially the ones based on Hugo's own painting, but others were a bit indistinct and murky, and some rather gimmicky. Please lose the CG snow and the CG explosions in the barricades - as naff as the moving projected blue silhouette of marry Poppins in her show. But the slowly shifting cloudscapes were very atmospheric, and the virtual run through the sewers very effective, though I'm not sure how appropriate it was - though a few scenes of characters appearing out of the backdrops worked very well. They ahve clearly worked hard to avoid any direct references to the obvious moments of pure theatrical genius of the original, and sometimes have come up better. The empty stage full of candles picked up by the ghosts in Empt Chairs particularly effective, but Javert's suicide didn't work from where we were, though an extremely clever idea and piece of stage trickery. It didn't haven't the audacious simplcity of the original. There was much more running on and off; the revolve helped that originally, and all the various bodies had to be carried off. The revolve was such a character in itself and I did miss it but there were some great reveals of characters, such as in the wedding. I wasn't sure whether they would dare use the God light, but they did and then added a twist in the barricades were it was used with great violence as each of the students was shot. Quite a shocking moment, and in the same scene the death of gavroche was much more effective by us not seeing it, and just seeing the God light.
I felt this production, if you were watching and knew where to watch, told the story with utmost clarity, and made some good links that I'd not noticed before. But, I have yet to understand how Valjean goes from being a convict rejected by most people, to suddenly becoming a mayor in the next scene. Did the candles buy him a mayorship? And without the slides of the original the time jump must have confused people, and we weren't shown the young Cosette and the older Cosette together to make that jump. But if you knew what was happening that was fine. The Thenardiers of course stop the show, and Master of the house has grown into a huge number full of business and gags; grown as much as the size of the acting. They were great of course but they are panto characters. Dear Sue Jane was not, nor did 70% of her performance depend on waggling an ample bust.
Some truly great performances, and fantastic new orchestrations, losing much of the pop/rock of some of the original.But what an event Les miserables is. Twenty five years on and there is still nto a ticket to be had. Watching it this afternoon, mcuh of the people in my life over the last twenty five years flashed by me, particularly Ma who saw the show several times with me, in London and in Manchester. I've probably seen it about 15 times now and on the farewell tour that finsihed in Manchester a good few years back I thought that was that but no here it is again, revitalised and refreshed and rethought out. They have found some wonderful new meanings and interpretations in even the most simple and familiar of words, making sense of everything.
I'm not sure I was moved by it this afternoon, as familiarity has blunted my connection, but I did sit there and marvel at the storytelling, and the sheer juggernaut each performane must be. And of course some of those songs and harmonies just sublime. I also noticed just how many promises are made in this show.
I hope I get to see it again sometime.
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