Tag Archives: Alfie Boe

Beg, Borrow or Steal to See Les Misérables

I am very lucky to have friends who are willing to write reviews for me.  Last month I published Scolytinae’s guest review of the London production of Les Misérables.  Another friend saw the musical this week, and here are her impressions: 

Les Miserables logo Queen's Theatre, LondonLes Misérables – Queen’s Theatre, London

I first saw Les Mis on stage when I was 17 at a local theatre in Yorkshire and have loved it ever since, but it has taken me almost 15 years to see it again.  Despite living in London for several years and seeing many plays and musicals during that time, for some unfathomable reason I never went to see Les Mis.  Seeing the Matt Lucas “I Dreamed A Dream” documentary was the trigger that finally got me to go and see it in the West End.

Due to a mix up in booking the tickets, I first saw the show in August with Jonathan Williams as Jean Valjean and then again in September with Alfie Boe in the lead role.  Since then, I have become slightly addicted to the Les Mis booking website and can now look forward to a further two visits this year alone.  I’m hoping for some kind of loyalty discount from Cameron Mackintosh, especially as Ramin Karimloo is joining the cast to take over from Alfie Boe in November.

Thursday night was my third visit.  Previously, I had seats in the dress circle and at the back of the stalls, but this time we had front row seats in the stalls at the right hand side.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but we certainly were close to the stage and to the orchestra—perhaps too close to the orchestra, as we could hear the brass section chatting at times.  On the plus side, my eye did keep being drawn to the conductor and it was fascinating to see him directing the cast as well as the orchestra—I got a real insight into how much work must go into getting the timing right.

Being so close to the stage meant we could see every facial expression of the cast and that did really add an extra element, particularly in all the Valjean/Javert double handers.  However, on the down side, it did mean the cast could make eye contact with us, which was slightly disconcerting.  I didn’t quite know where to look when three of the factory workers sang “At the End of the Day” while staring directly into my eyes.  Goodness knows what I would have done if Alfie or Hadley had made eye contact……

Alfie Boe and Hadley Fraser, Les Miserables

Alfie Boe and Hadley Fraser

The heart of the show is undoubtedly Alfie Boe’s Jean Valjean playing against Hadley Fraser’s feral Javert, but this visit I appreciated what an ensemble piece it is, with Eponine, Javert, Marius and Fantine having strong songs of their own.  This company is very talented, and I warmed to Caroline Sheen’s Fantine and Lisa-Anne Wood’s portrayal of Cosette much more than previously.  Due to the wonders of twitter, I could pick out members of the ensemble, and particular praise should go to Fra Fee and James Charlton—both have amazing voices.

Alfie Boe is sublime as Valjean, but his performance did seem the same as the first time I saw him.  There’s nothing I can put my finger on; it may just be that in contrast to all the other major characters, he has not developed the role any further, and there’s certainly no need.  Perhaps I’m getting too used to hearing his voice and don’t appreciate him fully.  My friend was certainly blown away by the power and control of his singing.

 

Scott Garnham as Enjolras

Scott Garnham (not wearing Enjolras wig!)

Scott Garnham and Adam Linstead deserve special mention.  Scott played Enjolras, as Liam Tamne was away.  Leaving aside the fact that the hair & make-up team managed to make a good-looking man unattractive, there was little to fault in his portrayal of Enjolras, and he was more believable in the role than Liam.  I would love to see what he would do with the role on a more permanent basis.  Adam Linstead’s Grantaire wins the “most improved” award.  He has really grown into this role and added a lot to it since I saw him last.  He starts as a laid-back bon viveur with the complexities of the character coming out in the emotional barricade scenes.

I was intrigued to see how Cameron Blakely would take on Thénardier—no mean feat to step into Matt Lucas’ shoes.  He has kept the role pretty similar and in the first half was easily a match to Matt—his “Master of The House” was superb.  However, he didn’t have the necessary menace in the sewer scenes, and the comedy was lacking a bit in the wedding scene.  It is early days though, so I will be interested to see how he develops the role.

Hadley Fraser as Javert, Les Miserables, London, Queen's Theatre

Hadley Fraser as Javert

I have tried to be as objective as I can, but in my eyes, Hadley Fraser can do no wrong.   I’ve yet to see anything less than stunning performances in all the YouTube clips, and I was also lucky enough to be at the Phantom 25th Anniversary concert a few weeks ago.  I read a recent interview with Hadley where he said he was trying to bring out the animalistic side of Javert.  I have to say, he has really developed this side of the character since my last visit.  There were times where he really seemed only half-human and more like a feral dog, albeit one with a lot of pent-up anger and confusion.  He was quite terrifying to watch from the front row, and I was glad he had a firm grasp of the truncheon, as I would not have wanted that flung across my face.

All in all, it was a fantastic evening.  If you like Les Mis or musical theatre in general, this cast is an absolute must-see.  I am excited about the prospect of Ramin Karimloo joining.  I can’t imagine him as Jean Valjean, but for me that only adds to the anticipation.

I’m not really a fan of hanging around the stage door, but I still managed to act like a crazy fan girl.  While waiting for a taxi on the street afterwards, I spotted Hadley walking past us, and I squealed “Oh, there’s Hadley!” to my friend.  He looked at me a bit oddly, so I think he heard—oh, the embarrassment….  But then he sloped off into the night, looking very slight and laid-back—quite a difference to the Javert who had been towering over us so menacingly half an hour before.

Thank you, helsbrownie!   You’re a star for taking the time to write this for us.

Yes, Ramin Karimloo will be replacing Alfie Boe as Valjean at the end of November, performing six times a week from November 29, 2011, through March 3, 2012.  Karimloo and Fraser, together again!

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Hadley & Les Mis: the only way to spend a Saturday

A guest review of the London production of Les Misérables from Scolytinae:

Hadley Fraser as JavertAs I am a huge Hadley Fraser fan, I should warn you in advance—this review may be a little biased!  I had booked my tickets back in April and was eagerly anticipating both the show and just how Hadley would interpret this complex character, my expectations were high, and I am happy to report that they were met, then exceeded tenfold!

 From the moment he strode on stage to hand Valjean his “yellow ticket of leave”, Hadley grabbed the role and made it his own.  His Javert was not a cold, calculating villain, but rather a man driven by his own certainties—you break the law, you are punished—you are a lawbreaker, you are unworthy, and it’s this that ensures his dogged pursuit of Valjean across the years.  Every time they encounter each other, Javert is bested by Valjean, and this sense of growing frustration came over so well.   One particularly memorable moment for me was after the students had fallen at the barricade. Javert returns and, in a very agitated manner, searches through the corpses looking for Valjean.   When it becomes clear he isn’t amongst the bodies, Hadley’s cry of rage and despair was something to behold.

 “Stars” is one of my favourite songs from the show, and I have heard it performed many times, but never quite as well as this.  I was obviously not alone in that opinion, as the thunderous applause began long before that amazing final note finished.  This moment was only surpassed by the incredible suicide scene.  As Valjean slips through his fingers yet again, you really begin to feel for Javert and watch in dismay as he begins to lose his grip on the world.  There really is no place for him to go, and with wild hair and dishevelled clothing, he clambers over the railings, throws himself off the bridge and, with clever use of lighting and the centre revolve of the stage,  is swept away.  A breathtaking moment, with Hadley not just singing but acting every note.

One of the many things that struck me was just how physical the show was.  Students, and the more senior cast members, clambering up, down and across the magnificent barricade, an incredible fight between Valjean and Javert, culminating in Alfie Boe smashing a chair and brandishing the broken leg in Hadley’s face, and, after Javert is revealed as a spy and handed over to Valjean, Alfie throws Hadley against a wall and pins him there with a musket under the chin!   All this whilst singing too—you certainly need stamina to be in this production! 

Ah, yes—there were other people up there on stage too!  The entire cast was absolutely superb, and mentioning everyone’s individual performance could take some time!  Instead, I’ll just say that this young cast have gelled together so well since June, and are producing some quite incredible performances.  I must however give a quick mention to the lovely Alfie Boe, magnificent as ever and who gave an incredibly moving performance, and Cameron Blakely who took over the role of Thénardier following Matt Lucas’ departure last week.  He has a lovely voice and gave us some genuinely funny moments, his timing was spot on.   I loved the little girl who played young Cosette.   She was such a tiny, fragile looking little thing, and the pail to fetch the water from the well in the wood was almost as big as she was!  This didn’t stop her from delivering a lovely “Castle on a Cloud.”  It was such a pity she wasn’t able to return to take her bow at the end.

It may be 26 years old, but Les Misérables shows no signs of ageing or of losing its appeal, as the “House Full” sign at the door on a sunny Saturday afternoon attested to.  It looks great, sounds fabulous and, with performances like this, means that this is a situation that isn’t going to change any time soon!  Quite simply, this is musical theatre at its very best.

Thanks, Scolytinae!   Now I’m even more desperate to get to London to see this production.  Great bug name, too.  (My guests get to pick their own!) 

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Les Mis: The Big Opening

Last night in London, the new production of Les Misérables with Alfie Boe, Matt Lucas and Hadley Fraser opened at last.  I’ve been looking forward to this night since the beginning of March, when I first saw the Les Mis 25th Anniversary Concert on television.  By all accounts, the evening was a big success, the new cast was wonderful, and the audience was filled with fans and celebrities who were wildly enthusiastic.   All three performers have been graciously tweeting their thanks to the many fans who sent flowers and best wishes.  Ramin Karimloo, who played Enjolras in the anniversary concert, attended the opening and praised his concert mates.  (It’s a good thing he has Thursday nights off from Love Never Dies, but I suspect he’d have taken the night off anyway!)   Matt Lucas will play Thénardier until 10 September, Alfie Boe will play Valjean until 26 November, and all their performances together are now sold out.  Hadley Fraser plays Javert for a full year.  I wish them all a great summer onstage at the Queen’s Theatre, and I’m looking forward to more tweets, photos, and stage door stories from fans.

I will be adding links here to other blogs, more photos, reviews, and hopefully some videos of Opening Night.  Please help me by adding links in the comment section.

More photos of Opening Night of Les Miserables

Listen to Hadley Fraser sing Stars and Javert’s Suicide

Listen to Alfie Boe and Hadley Fraser

A short piece in The Sun about Matt Lucas

A very positive review of the new cast and production

A review from one of my favorite West End bloggers

A review from a fan of Liam Tamne (Enjolras)

A little off-topic, but a fun podcast of Hadley Fraser

An interview with Hadley Fraser

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Your PBS Station May Be Lying

I don’t know why I have it in for PBS!  I’ve complained about the cancellation of EastEnders and the trimming down of Masterpiece.  Tonight, I want to warn all US Les Mis fans about the 2 CD set of Les Misérables that is being offered as a pledge incentive during the 25th Anniversary concert broadcast.  I don’t know about your local station, but KQED in Northern California is claiming that this Dream The Dream CD set is the concert soundtrack.  It’s not.   

The Dream The Dream  CD set is a live recording of the 25th anniversary touring production of Les Misérables.  Valjean is sung by John Owen-Jones, not Alfie Boe. Nick Jonas, Ramin Karimloo, Hadley Fraser, Lea Salonga, and Matt Lucas are NOT on this recording.  A few cast members are the same, like Katie Hall, but the rest of the roles are performed by different actors.  Now, this may still be an excellent CD set, but it’s not what the folks at KQED are claiming.  This could be a simple case of ignorance, except that I called the station and told them the difference.  On the very next pledge break, they continued telling viewers that it was the O2 concert recording.  And that’s just wrong.  Besides, the concert, and these CDs, have been used regularly for the last three months for pledge drives,  so I know I’m not the only person to bring this to their attention.  I urge you to call your station if they are also misinforming viewers.

Unfortunately at this time, there is no CD/mp3 download of the O2 concert.  If it becomes available, I will definitely post that information.

Update:  I received a response from KQED on this issue.   It sounds like they are attempting to fix the situation.  They are adding disclaimers to their fundraising breaks to note that the CDs are “a cast recording rather than a recording of the broadcast” (which I hope they make clear is a different cast), and they say they’re sending letters and emails to those members who requested the CDs “to apologize, to make the distinction, and to determine what additional steps are necessary for those members.”   In addition, I’ve been told they will investigate whether this had happened during national fundraising efforts.   

 

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Les Mis: The Streets of Paris

Here we go again—more screencaps from the Les Misérables concert!  This is one of my favorite sequences.  So many new characters are introduced, revolution is stirring, and it all happens so fast.

Robert Madge as Gavroche, Les Miserables

We live on crumbs of humble piety, tough on the teeth but what the hell!

Prostitutes and Pimp, Les Miserables

When we gonna live? Something's gotta happen...something's gotta give!

Nick Jonas and Ramin Karimloo, Marius and Enjolras, Les Miserables

With all the anger in the land, how long before the Judgment Day?

Samantha Barks as Eponinie, Les Miserables

That's Eponine, she knows her way about...

Nick Jonas, Samantha Barks, Katie Hall, Les Miserables

I didn't see you there, forgive me.

Alfie Boe, Valjean and Gang, Les Miserables

What is this? Are you mad?

Javert Valjean Cosette: Norm Lewis, Alfie Boe, Katie Hall, Les Miserables

Another brawl in the square! Another stink in the air!

Related Posts:   Gavroche    My Les Mis    Please Sir, I Want Some More    To The Barricade!    Ramin Karimloo      Enjolras & Grantaire     Grantaire   Thénardier Waltz    Gavroche: Liar!     Bring Him Home    Enjolras    Les Mis: The Originals   24601    Fantine    Cosette & Madame Thénardier

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Fantine

Lea Salonga as Fantine in the Les Misérables concert.

Lea Salonga as Fantine, Les Miserables

"You must send us more money, your child needs a doctor, there's no time to lose."

Lea Salonga as Fantine and Jeff Nicholson, Les Miserables

You must sack the girl today! "Right my girl, on your way."

Lea Salonga as Fantine, Les Miserables

I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I'm living...

Lea Salonga as Fantine, Les Miserables

What can I do? It pays a debt! Ten francs may save my poor Cosette!

Lea Salonga as Fantine, Les Miserables

Life has landed you at the bottom of the heap. Join your sisters, make money in your sleep.

Lea Salonga as Fantine, Les Miserables

I never did no wrong. My daughter's close to dying.

Fantine and Valjean (Alfie Boe & Lea Salonga) Les Miserables

Your child will want for nothing, and none will ever harm Cosette as long as I am living.

Fantine and Cosette (Lea Salonga & Mia Jenkins) Les Miserables

Tell Cosette I love her and I'll see her when I wake...

Related Posts:   Gavroche   My Les Mis    Please Sir, I Want Some More    To The Barricade!   Ramin Karimloo   Grantaire   Enjolras & Grantaire   Thénardier Waltz    Gavroche: Liar!     Bring Him Home   Enjolras    Les Mis: The Originals  24601

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24601

Here is Alfie Boe as Valjean at the beginning of the Les Misérables concert. When Valjean gets his yellow ticket of leave from prison, he discovers being paroled does not free him.  He steals from the Bishop, but instead of sending him back to prison, the Bishop (Earl Carpenter) gives him his silver candlesticks as well, saying he must use the silver to become an honest man. Valjean rips up his yellow ticket and begins a new life.  

Alfie Boe Jean Valjean Les Miserables

The day begins, and now let's see, what this new world will do for me.

Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean, Les Miserables

This piece of paper in my hand, it makes me cursed throughout the land. It is the Law!

Alfie Boe Jean Valjean Les Miserables

Tell his Reverence your story, let us see if he's impressed!

Alfie Boe Jean Valjean Les Miserables Earl Carpenter Bishop of Digne

God has raised you out of darkness, I have bought your soul for God.

Alfie Boe Jean Valjean Les Miserables

Why did I allow this man to touch my soul and teach me love?

Alfie Boe Jean Valjean Les Miserables

Take an eye for an eye, turn your heart into stone! This is all I have lived for, this is all I have known! Is there another way to go?

Alfie Boe Valjean Les Miserables
Jean Valjean is nothing now, another story must begin!

Related Posts:   Gavroche   My Les Mis    Please Sir, I Want Some More    To The Barricade!   Ramin Karimloo   Grantaire   Enjolras & Grantaire   Thénardier Waltz    Gavroche: Liar!     Bring Him Home   Enjolras   Les Mis: The Originals

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