Les Miserables at Queens Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, January 2011

Where do you start with a ‘review’ of Les Miserables?!?  It has to be said that this show is a true epic work of art.  Anyone who has read this site before will understand all too well how preoccupied I am with all things epic.  I strive to produce the epic.  Well… Les Miserables is about as epic as they come.  Other words such as;  grandiose… emotional… heart-wrenching… all-consuming… come across as clichés I suppose.  But believe me… this is one hell of a show!

As Les Mis has been playing since 1985 then I would assume that most of you out there will have seen it by now.   I was, unfortunately, very late to the party.  I was only really converted to the cause a couple of years ago when my girlfriend played me the CD in the car.  “Here we go…” I thought, “another musical” (she likes musicals!).  But that was the end of the sarcasm.  I was blown away by the sheer audacity of the piece.  The complexity of the story.  The beauty of the music and the clarity of the lyrics.

So, I bought her a DVD of the show for Christmas.  I think it was the 10th Anniversary Concert at the Albert Hall.   And then I was blown away all over again.  Now… what I didn’t quite understand at first was that the DVD wasn’t actually the show.  It was just the actors singing the songs from the show.  I say ‘just’ – I thought the guy playing Jean Valjean was outstanding – but you get my drift?  It wasn’t actually “the show” apparently.  To see “the show” – I knew I was going to be in for a treat!

Now… I was taking my girlfriend to see Les Miserables.  So of course all of my enjoyment had to be secondary to hers.  Luckily she had a great time… and because of that I can now write about it as if it were just for me. 😉

Queens Theatre, London is a pretty, welcoming little theatre.  It oozes history and just being there you feel the aura of ‘specialness to come’.  I believe this theatre has played nothing but Les Mis for a few years now and – whether that is true or not – it shows!

Without giving too much away, and condensing the story to its essence, we have the tale of a convict pursued by a relentless policeman in revolutionary France.  There are many important side-stories… but basically, we are experiencing the life story of Jean Valjean.  When you see it for real it makes a lot more sense than just watching the DVD with the songs!  I now understand the difference between ‘watching the songs in a theatre’, and ‘watching the actual show in a theatre’.  The sets are awesome.  Truly marvellous.  Just to imagine the sheer work that must have to be put into every single night simply to construct and manoeuvre the backdrops.  The huge set-pieces, the spectacle, the immaculate singing.  The emotion.  Definitely deserved the standing ovation!

The actor playing Jean Valjean was the standout… although that always seems to be the case with Les Mis (from my extremely limited experience).  I also thought the guy playing the policeman Javert was outstanding.  The comedy couple, the landlord and his wife were excellent.  The only disappointments were some of the upper class/soldier characters, particularly Marius.  It’s hard to invest much sympathy in a character so dripping wet!

The show is a bit of a slog.  3 hours.  But it never drags.  Every second seems well judged and well paced.  This is the epitome of epic.  The “something special” that I myself am striving for.  I am nearing completion of a gargantuan piece of music that I am collaborating on with the American artist Bill Ryan.  This piece of music is going to be somewhere in the region of 7 minutes or so.  It will form part of the Eleventh Hour‘s debut album and I am hoping it will shape up to be the centre-piece of the whole show.  It certainly has the potential… it’s only for Bill or I to drop the ball now and spoil it.  🙂  Ha ha!  If I could just squeeze a fraction of the grandeur of Les Mis into the song then I will face 2011 as a happy man.

Anyway… in short… Les Miserables at the Queens Theatre, London is well worth a trip.  Bloody outstanding.  10/10.

Any opinions?

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