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Review - Savoyards Les Misérables: captivated the mind and soul

June 26, 2018

 

Above: Chris Thomas as Javert and Shannon Foley as Jean Val jean.Right: Julie Eisentrager and Warryn James as the Thenardiers. Below right : Belinda Burton as Cosette with Matthew Geaney as Marius. Photos by Mark Duffus

 

Les Misérables

A new production from Boublil and Schönberg

Original book written by Victor Hugo

Directed by Robbie Parkin

Savoyards Musical Comedy Society

Iona Performing Arts Centre

85 North Road,

Lindum, QLD 4178

 

Season: 23 June to 7 July. . Bookings:  bookings@savoyards.com.au or phone (07) 3893 4321.

 

Les Misérables is a story set in 19th Century France and spans 17 years leading to the student uprising against the Government in Paris in 1832. It follows the story of Jean Valjean, a man convicted to 20 years on the chain gang for stealing a loaf of bread, through his release on parole to his redemption, resurrection, and finally, death.

The story that Hugo brings to life is a snapshot of the history of the times – the poverty, the extreme law and judgments, the iron grip with which the elite ruled, and the unrest on the street at the injustice of it all.

Les Mis is not an easy musical to stage,  it is larger than life, the musical score alone is a production unto itself, then there are the lyrics with all their complex harmonies, counterpoints and melodies. And then there is the setting the scenes as the story unfolds and moves across the French landscape from Digne, to Montreuil-Sur-Mer, to Montfermeil and finally to Paris.

The two main cast members of Jean Valjean and Javert are performed by Shannon Foley and Christopher Thomas respectively, both of whom have returned to the stage for this performance after a long hiatus. Shannon Foley is superb in his portrayal; his vocal range is sublime and powerful; while Christopher Thomas was the quintessential uptight inspector. Thomas’s singing was strong and when the two sang together, it was a feast for the ears.

Sarah Copley portrayed the unfortunate Fantine admirably, as she is cast out and ends up on the streets, to sell her hair and body to pay for her daughter, Cosette, to be looked after by the Thenardiers. The young Cosette was performed by two actors, with opening night being performed by Caliese McEachern, who sang Castle on a Cloud in a clean, clear voice that hinted at the desperation of her situation. The other young singer on stage was Gavroche, ably performed by Elijah Fern and I am sure a tear or two was shed at his demise in the second act.

The older Cosette was performed by Belinda Burton, whose soprano voice is a wonderful contrast to the older Eponine performed by Erika Naddei, who is the lower range, but equally as strong. Marius who falls for Cosette in a single encounter (and vice versa) was performed by Matthew Geaney. Geaney’s voice is nice, but I felt he was relying on his microphone to carry his voice as he wasn’t opening his mouth much when singing.

My favourites of the whole cast were the Thenardiers, performed by Warryn James and Julie Eisentrager, and Enjolras, performed by Travis Holmes Their portrayal of these two wily, underhanded inn keepers, was superbly funny. Their characters gave a light edge to what is otherwise a reasonably dark story, apart from the love between Cosette and Marius. Enjolras is the leader of the student revolutionaries. He and the other students did a great job at Red and Black, which is one of my favourite songs. The songs overall were sung with the emotion needed, however some of the body language needs to mirror that as well. However, The People’s Song, which is another favourite, featuring in the first act and is the finale, built up from only a few voices to the entire cast, and gave the production a very powerful ending.

The set featured a two-storey platform across the back of the stage – the top part containing only railings, and this extended on both sides towards the front of the stage. Two staircases at other side of centre stage led to the top platform, while the central part underneath was open and resembled a veranda with four uprights. Various closures slid across the opening to portray the prison gate at the beginning, to closing it entirely to give the effect of being indoors. A flat with the sewer gate was cleverly slotted into place at stage right for the barricade scene. Props seamlessly moved on and off stage, either by the actors themselves or stage crew. The lighting is excellent and adds to the experience of the ambience of the scenes, particularly in the sewer scene, with special effects of trickling water.

Choreographed movement (Gabrielle Parkin) accentuated the story being told and the costumes were simply wonderful, from the peasants through to the wedding scene with all the beautiful ball gowns. The orchestra, under Musical Director, Geoffrey Secomb, handled the difficult score admirably.

I enjoyed Les Mis. From start to finish, this productio

 

captivated the mind and soul, with its powerful, emotional story portrayed wonderfully by the cast with the characters all lovingly brought to life.

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