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