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Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Les Miserables, Queen's Theatre

I consider it a sin that I have never before seen Les Miserables, arguably the most famous and popular musical of all time. Walking down Shaftesbury Avenue regularly, it has always irritated me that Les Mis is one I have never ticked off my ‘to see’ list, and as an extreme musical theatre lover, it is just not acceptable! I remember so clearly, in my first ever singing lesson at seven years old how I sang ‘Castle in a Cloud’, the little girl Cosette's number, and I have since sung many of the other ensemble pieces in various performances.
Finally the opportunity arose to see this musical - my friend Fra Fee joined the London cast in the role of Marius (the young and strapping hero). Most of the time he performs a smaller part in the show, but occasionally he gets the chance to shine as Marius, and I had to be at one of those performances. Armed with presumptious flowers, I went along with a fellow singer to watch our boy take to the stage. Seated in the £12 seats (severely restricted view, you will have to lean forward), I beamed with pride and excitement.
The show is as epic as you’d expect: grand revolving set, glorious period costumes and an exceptional band in the pit. Where Les Mis really stuns is with the vocal expertise and virtuoso of the two older male leads, there is nothing like it in any other musical. You need a rare talent to be cast in Les Mis, the ability to bridge classical and popular styles of singing; and currently on stage are the best in this field, Ramin Karimloo as reformed criminal, Jean Valjean and Hadley Fraser as the stern police officer, Javert. Both men are astounding, rich strong voices that easily resonate through the great theatre, yet succeed in remaining hugely affecting and sensitive. I particularly loved Karimloo’s rendition of ‘Bring Him Home’ sung almost entirely in his upper register - it is perfectly in tune, simple and beautiful. Fra is spectacular as Marius, just as expected he would be, bringing just the right mix of innocence and maturity to the part. His voice is effortlessly lovely with a unique and gorgeous tone.
Les Miserables is a spectacular show that has enjoyed many years in the West End, but seeing it somehow evaded me. To see Fra passionately perform such a vital role in the show made the experience very special. Still receiving a rapturous standing ovation after every show just proves how magical and memorable this show is, and now I can tick it off my long ‘to see’ list, at last.
Visit the website to book here.

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