Ok, so it’s taken me four months to get around to seeing the new London cast of Les Miserables at the Queens Theatre but last week I finally did it and took a friend for their birthday (who had never seen the show can you believe)!
For anyone else that maybe doesn’t know the story of Les Mis, here we go… a man goes to prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his dying family. Twenty years later he is released on parol but hasn’t learnt his lesson and gets arrested again, this time for stealing cutlery from a kind bishop who takes him in for the night. Taking pity on him, the bishop says he gave the plates to Jean Valjean and he is set free. JVJ then swears to himself that he will turn his life around and become a decent person.
He becomes mayor of a town and finds a woman (Fantine) dying in the street that used to work in one of his factories. He cares for her on her death bed and promises to find her child (Cosette) and take care of her. The Thenardiers have been fleecing Fantine for money, saying Cosette is sick, when she really isn’t and when JVJ finds her alive and well he buys her from the Thenardiers and brings her up as his own child.
Cosette falls in love with a university student Marius but then the french revolution gets in the way and things start to fall apart. War breaks out and most of the characters die. I won’t say which as that would ruin the surprise but the story ends with a lovely party.
West End/Broadway star of Kinky Boots, Killian Donnelly returns to the cast of Les Mis, this time as the lead character Jean Valjean. Killian does a great job in the role and shows another level of versatility to his acting skills, being almost unrecognisable against his previous characters in Kinky Boots and The Commitments.
Hayden Tee was off the night I went to see the show and playing Javert was Shaq Taylor. Shaq was brilliant in the role and showed me a different side to the character than I have seen previously. Paul Wilkins, who has played Marius on the international tour of the show returns to the West End to play the role and again gives a stand out performance.
The Thenardiers (played by Steven Meo and Jacqueline Tate) work well alongside each. These are two of the greatest comedy parts in musical theatre and it is hard to choose who have been my favourites but these two do a good job. Karis Jack gives a youthful approach of Eponine. Again, there have been so many amazing actresses to play this role over the years that it is rare to see someone take on the role and manage to put their own stamp on it but Karis does give a playful element to the part. Carly Stenson and Charlotte Kennedy (as Fantine and Cosette) have great voices too.
Having seen Les Mis on Broadway with updated video projection and set design, I do wish that the West End version would be brought up to date as after thirty years it is starting to look a bit dated. However, as it is still selling out night after night, there is still a lot to be said for the current production.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Johan Persson
Book tickets to Les Miserables at the Queens Theatre