Theatre review - Les Misérables at Palace Theatre Manchester

PUBLISHED: 10:03 14 March 2019

One Day More, Les Misérables 2019 tour
Credit: Matthew Murphy

One Day More, Les Misérables 2019 tour Credit: Matthew Murphy

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One of the best known and best loved musicals of all time, Les Misérables has lost not one iota of its brilliance in the 34 years since it first opened

Harry Apps (Marius), Tegan Bannister (Eponine) and Bronwen Hanson (Cosette)
Credit: Matthew MurphyHarry Apps (Marius), Tegan Bannister (Eponine) and Bronwen Hanson (Cosette) Credit: Matthew Murphy

This show is part of the 25th anniversary world tour, which actually started in 2009, a re-staging of the show by Cameron Mackintosh, taking its inspiration from the paintings of Victor Hugo himself, author of the novel that inspired the show. Hugo himself fought on the barricades in Paris, witnessed for himself the abysmal poverty of the inhabitants of the slums and argued for their cause. His novel has been immensely simplified for the stage, but this version, written by Alain Boublil, doesn’t shirk from Hugo’s original aim, wrapping a love story into a tale of honour, dishonour, thievery, loyalty and redemption, all supported by the most glorious score and unforgettable lyrics.

If you haven’t seen the show, you may have seen the film, which was great, but really doesn’t prepare you for the power and exuberance of the stage musical, I promise you.

The Barricade.
Credit: Matthew MurphyThe Barricade. Credit: Matthew Murphy

For much of the show, you are just pinned to your seat by the music. The casting is superb, each and every performer simply brilliant, with incredible vocals and pure, heart-rending performance. There is plenty of humour too, providing moments of levity in which the audience can draw breath, before bracing for the next onslaught of emotion.

Jean Valjean, played brilliantly by Killian Donnelly, stands at the heart of this show. Stage presence is required as much as vocal talent and stamina, and Donnelly has it by the bucket load. Nic Greenshields, who plays Javert, the police officer with an unhealthy obsession for Valjean’s capture and return to gaol, is rather fabulous too. As are Katie Hall, who plays a heart-breaking Fantine, Tegan Banniser (Eopine), Harry Apps (Marius) and Bronwen Hanson (Cosette). They’re all marvellous, indeed, but it’s when the whole ensemble come together in the big numbers that things get really spectacular. Oh my, One Day More had me reaching for my hankie, and, wow, as for Do You Hear The People Sing, I can’t think of a time I have enjoyed sitting in a theatre more; it’s just spectacular.

Wicked innkeeper Thénardier and his missus, Madame Thénardier, bring much needed light relief to the show, their Master of the House performance positively raising the roof. Perfectly timed and very clever choreography adds an extra layer of jollity, most of it being hilariously vulgar.

The hard work of the cast is brilliantly supported by an excellent set. Moving from the prison hulk of Valjean’s captivity to the dockside of Montreuil-sur-Mer, where Fantine loses everything she has to keep her daughter safe (as she believes) to the mean streets of Paris and the barricades, it’s a grand coming together of physical pieces and projection that lift you into the world of Victor Hugo and all his characters.

There are dozens of good reasons that this show continues to draw fans, old and new, to the theatre in every city it visits, far too many to list here indeed, but perhaps the best of them is that it genuinely reaches you, lifts you and drops you and leaves you quite breathless with the joy of it.

PS - You will need a hankie, even if it’s just to pass to your neighbour.

This tour has sold out in Manchester, with just occasional tickets coming free for each showing (it’s worth a try on 0844 871 3019) , but it’s coming back next year to The Lowry: https://thelowry.com/whats-on/les-miserables/ , so get your skates on and book now.

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