I know how difficult Les Mis is for a youth group, trust me. But Captivate have been honing their skills on the Fringe with this show (different casts each year) for a while now so they should know how to go about it.
And they do.
The Rose Theatre is a welcome addition to our theatrical real estate in Edinburgh and when they sort out their technical teething problems it will be a brilliant venue. Today’s was more succesful than the National Youth Jazz Orchestra gig that I reviewed earlier in the year, but it’s not quite nailed on yet.
But let’s forget about that, shall we, and concentrate instead on this stupendous production. The nature of working a shared venue necessitates a parsity of set design but Director, Sally Lyall, has done a good job in utilising a bunch of grey wooden crates that come into their own at the barrier scene which works really well. I also liked her devise for transporting the ‘souls’ of the many fatalities in this celebrated show off the stage and through the audience.
It’s a lovely visual leitmotif.
In general her direction is assured and light handed, but at times there is a tendency for ‘enthusiasm’ that I’d like better if it was dialled down to 9. But in the quieter, more poignant, moments such as Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, I Dreamed a Dream, On my Own and Bring Him Home she creates an electrifyingly intense audience connection.
The ensemble is brilliant. Every number they perform is welcome, solid, and really well pitched.
The orchestra (it’s not a band) is big, beefy and boisterous. They do a fine job
But it’s the succession of excellent principle performances that really gets you.
I loved Conall Ross’ Marius (one of my favourite parts in the show) and I adored his Empty Chairs (for me the song of Les Mis). He’s nicely soppy but engaging with it. The scene with his comrades, prior to battle, where he declares his undying and sudden love for Cosette is really well done.
Cosette herself is simply wonderful with Naomi Anderson reminding me of a young Irene Allan (her delightful soprano voice really resonates with emotion).
The Thenardiers are both brilliant (but especially Georgia-Lee Roberts who would give Les Dawson a run for his money in any gurning competition), Eion Mullen though is also great.
Rosie Graham’s hapless Eponine gathers momentum throughout the show and she puts in a lovely understated performance.
Kara Chalmers is beautiful as Fantine and she totally hits the spot with her show-stopper moment.
The youngsters; Little Cosette (Isla Manson/Georgia Sim/Kayla Travers) and Gavroche (Tom Barclay or Seamus Cross – I know it wasn’t Andrew Gilbert as he used to be in my Youth Theatre) were also excellent.
But, for the show to really work, you need a strong Valjean and Javert. Both were outstanding. They bounced off each other convincingly and Benjamin Collins’ rendition of On my Own hit all the high spots with an assured use of falsetto. That can be the death of many a Valjean; long before the Epilogue. Finlay McKillop sounds like an opera singer and is destined for good things in the future. I would’t be surprised if he turns up at the Conservatoire.
Collectively, their excellent diction really helped move an extremely complex story along, at a fair old clip, in a very coherent way and that can be another real problem with Les Mis.
Not this one.
That was a 4.5 stars for me guys. Enjoy your run. The standing ovation at the end proved I was not alone in this view.