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july, 2020

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What's On Newcastle

Les miserables - Theatre Royals Newcastle

Les Misérables UK Tour – Review

I wasn’t going to see this production. Not because I don’t like Les Misérables, quite the opposite, in fact, I love it. My first time watching the show was in London at some time between 1985 and 1986. I only know this as it was the original cast including Michael Ball, Roger Allam and Colm Wilkinson. The reason I nearly didn’t see this was that the tickets had sold out too quickly! It was only a pure chance phone call that changed this. Speaking to the box office, they told me that there were a couple of seats available… in the front row! BOOK THEM! Thing is because of this production they are being sold as “restricted view”. How bad could that be?

Front Row for Les Misérables

As we entered the Theatre Royal auditorium and headed down to the front row of the stalls, I was impressed. For a touring production, the stage setting was immersive. It wasn’t just the stage, it was the Apron, the front of the wings spilling on the boxes. This was hiding some of the lighting rigs but added to the impressive visuals.

Les Miserables UK tour - Theatre Royal Newcastle
Les Misérables Press Photo by Helen Maybanks

Slightly squashed up against the orchestra pit, we got to see the musicians get ready and await their cue. Luckily we weren’t three seats to the left as we would have been behind the conductor. He wasn’t overly intrusive but could have been distracting with the baton waving? However the main glitch with the front row seats. To accommodate the runners and elements of the scenery, the Touring production adds their own top layer to the stage. This adds about 18″ above the normal stage level. Not usually an issue, but the opening scene seemed to be the chain gang (“Look Down”) rowing a boat. I say seemed to be as we could only see the top of their heads occasionally, with a flap of an oar every so often. We found why this was restricted viewing, but accepted it as the tickets were “cheap”!

As the Orchestra started up, the rousing music and thumping drum sent a shiver down my spine. It’s a weird feeling when a show is just beginning and you know that it will be brilliant. Over the next 2 hours and 50 minutes, I wasn’t proven wrong.

Les Misérables is set in the June Revolution of 1832, not the French Revolution. Its story covers many different characters as their paths intertwine. Lead Characters Jean Valjean, Cosette, Marius and Fantine have heart-wrenching stories. However, without the Thenardiers, the emotive moments wouldn’t hit as strong as they offer light-hearted relief and a dark element to the battle.

Les Miserables UK tour - Theatre Royal Newcastle
Les Misérables Press Photo by Helen Maybanks

However, for me, the highlight moment is provided by Inspector Javert. Javert relentlessly tracks Valjean throughout the story, until a twist in the power happens. Captured by the rebellion Javert is handed over to Valjean to be shot as a traitor. Instead, he is set free. Unsure how to handle he decides to throw himself off a bridge into the river below ending his life. I have seen this scene done so many different ways. Creating the illusion of jumping off a bridge and falling to the river has been captured perfectly.

Les Miserables UK tour - Theatre Royal Newcastle
Les Misérables Press Photo by Helen Maybanks

I’m pretty sure that even if you’ve never heard any of the songs from Les Misérables you will leave the show singing some songs. One More Day, I dreamed a Dream, On My Own, and Master of the House, but for me, Stars and Bring Him Home, seem to hit home and start the tears. Yes, I did cry and I’m sure many many others do too.

We’ve already mentioned the built-up stage, but the reason for this is to be able to slide in some amazing set pieces. Which has a surprise element of a building! Throughout the first half, two tower-like buildings are popping into view and back. Then at one point, they move all the way across the stage like a pair of curtains and make you wonder where it’s all come from! A very impressive piece of production.

Les Miserables UK tour - Theatre Royal Newcastle
Les Misérables Press Photo by Helen Maybanks

I can’t hide the fact that Les Misérables is one of my all-time favourite Musicals. The songs and story are gripping and combined with the fantastic cast and great production it continues to be a winner. Killian Donnelly, did an outstanding role as Jean Valjean as it’s quite a physically demanding role. Tegan Bannister’s Eponine was pitch-perfect in On My Own. If the show wasn’t pretty much sold out I’d be back again to see it before it leaves Newcastle.

If you’ve got a ticket you’re in for a treat. If not, fingers crossed you can find a couple available.
Les Misérables runs until 5th October 2019
For more information visit https://www.theatreroyal.co.uk/whats-on

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