‘Les Miserables’ was extraordinaire.
When the first swell of the orchestra struck up the impressive overture of ‘Les Misérables’, I knew I was in for a treat. Lynch & Paterson’s new production of the iconic musical at the Redcliffe Entertainment Centre brings a vocal prowess and huge scale revival to Cameron Mackintosh’s rendition.
This show really needs no introduction; however, Les Misérables is based on the 1862 novel of the same name. The musical, adapted by Trevor Nunn and John Caird, with music and lyrics by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Herbert Kretzmer, follows the journey of ex-prisoner Jean Valjean and is set across several decades. The epic spectacle is steeped in the fascinating history of France, as well as themes of justice, revenge, love and philosophy. The characters have big hearts and big dreams; Valjean for purpose and authenticity, Eponine to love and be loved, Fantine for her child to grow up safely. They speak their truth no matter the consequences. ‘Les Misérables’ is a timely example that we need strong leaders; generous, courageous and unrelenting people. It’s no wonder that the show is well-loved, premiering in London in 1985 and since having been performed an estimated 50,000 times.
‘Les Misérables’ is a constantly shifting world through time and place, and under Technical Director and Lighting Designer Tom Dodds, the stories genuinely came alive. There were some wonderfully moving effects that complemented the sweeping solo songs. The audience understood what the characters were expressing and their story wasn’t lost amongst the rush of the show. Some well-appointed projections of key dates and locations also kept a helpful tab on the timeline. For a show such as this, however, the epic score must always be the most pronounced element for this musical, and Sound Design by Ben Murray did not disappoint. Spine-tingling, rousing and completely captivating – it demanded the crowd’s full presence.
While a minimalist production of this musical can easily be done (as the programme described), it’s a good thing Set Designer David Lawrence went for grand and impressive instead. The town square backdrop was intricately detailed, and the period came alive in the form of the meticulously detailed barricade in Act 2, made from broken wheels, chairs, bits of wood and plenty more. Together with Anita Sweeney’s rich costumes, this was a production with beautiful, eye-catching visual components.
Director Cienda McNamara had a strong focus on character and crafted powerful and emotional moments on stage; Fantine’s ‘I Dreamed A Dream’, Eponine’s ‘On My Own’ and many of Valjean’s scenes, to name a few. Madi Lee as Assistant Director and Choreographer staged fantastic ensemble numbers and memorable moments, such as ‘Master of the House’ and ‘One Day More’ that had everyone united on stage. I wished, across the board, that more creative license had been taken with blocking and transitions, but it was the terrific passion and commitment to story that riveted my eyes on the stage.
Most impressive of all was Lucas D. Lynch as Musical Director. Not only was the 28-piece Cadenza Chamber Players orchestra stunning to experience, the cast’s sharp vocals and harmonies were equally impressive. I was blown away by the consistent quality and power of the singing throughout.
All reflective of the show-stopping cast! Shannon Foley brought warmth and honesty to Jean Valjean and boasted impressive vocals. Lionel Theunissen was well suited to Javert and always commanded the stage. Nykita O’Keeffe was playful, courageous and heartfelt as Eponine, and showed such nuance in her conundrum to love Marius. Belinda Burton as Fantine stole the show from the beginning with ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ and her (spoilers) death scene which were delicate, touching and so very heart-wrenching. It was difficult to take eyes away from Steve Beck as Thénardier and Fiona Buchanan as Madame Thénardier, who were entertaining and outrageously disturbing. There were also some brilliant young performers – Darci Allen as Young Cosette/Eponine and Jeremiah Rees as Gavroche – particularly Rees, who always had the audience cheering with his cocky performance. Rounding out the principals were Travis Holmes as Marius, Samantha Paterson as Cosette (and also as the production’s Executive Producer), Nate Stevenson as Enjolras and Roger Davy as Bishop. That’s not to mention the highly dynamic ensemble: James Lennox, Amelia Burton, Sophie Mason, Lara Boyle, Nathaniel Currie, Meg Kiddle, Lachlan Dodd, Chelsea Sales, Cody Arthur, David McLaughlin, Jackson Wecker, Jesse Blachut, Kamara Henricks, Priya Shah, Puawai Herewini, Sam Henderson and Sarah O’Neill.
Lynch & Paterson’s ‘Les Misérables’ knocks the ball out of the park. It has soaring music, polished singing and enthralling performances. Was it a fresh take? Not particularly, but such a timeless musical really only needs a strong team of creatives and an accomplished orchestra.
‘Les Misérables’ season was unfortunately cut short due to the 2022 Brisbane floods. For more information visit the Lynch & Paterson website.
Photos by PIF Productions.