The world-conquering musical Les Misérables (School Edition) has been brought to Arbroath’s Webster Theatre by The LimeLight Company.
This stunning musical with its roots firmly in stage theatre is now known to many from the blockbuster film of the same name but there’s no competing with a live performance to convey the emotion behind this dark and stirring production.
Based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, Les Misérables is set in 19th-century France during a period of political unrest and corruption.
The story has various threads ranging from revolutionary righting of wrongs, generosity of spirit, forgiveness, love, loss of love and loss of life. It is told entirely through a powerful musical score with strong, meaningful lyrics.
During the opening song, depicting the hard labour of convicts, we are introduced to Jean Valjean, prisoner 24601 (Ross McKenzie). Downtrodden and hardened to the world, Valjean is released on parole after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. Let out of jail by a ‘man of the law’ Javert (Philip Barr), he soon breaks parole and runs away.
Outstanding performances are given by these two main characters as they lead the audience through this tale of injustice.
As the plot unravels we learn Valjean has turned his life around and has become Monsieur Madeleine, factory owner and Mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer.
He has learned to show compassion for others and forgiveness to those who have treated him unkindly
However in contrast, Javert becomes obsessed with bringing about the demise of his former prisoner and seems unable to see the goodness in those around him.
Fantine, played with heartrending emotion by Alice Gilyeat, is a former factory worker who is forced into prostitution to pay for herself and her illegitimate child, Cosette (Emma Stephen\Ruby Burton). Fantine is dying and Valjean promises to take care of her child to repay her for being forced onto the street.
Cosette is being ‘cared’ for by the innkeepers, Monsieur and Madame Thénardier. The pairing of Ryan Tait and Ailsa Wallace provides the audience with some light comic relief and is an example of excellent casting. The couple are, however, utterly grotesque and unashamedly money grabbing and have been treating Cosette terribly whilst spoiling their own daughter, Eponine (Ruby Burton/Emma Stephen). Valjean pays the Thenardiers for Cosette and goes on to care for her as his own.
Years later, Marius, one of the young, revolutionary students and friend of the now adult, Eponine meets and falls in love with Cosette. They go on to marry but alongside this is the touching story of Eponine’s unrequited love for Marius.
All three of these characters are brought to life with beautiful singing and passionate performances from Charlie Wake (Marius), Jessica Buick (Eponine) and Sheryl White (Cosette).
The silence in the audience was palpable during the barricade scene when the students, led by Enjolras, stirringly played by Josh Wright, are slaughtered whilst fighting for their cause. Even the hardest audience member could not have been left unaffected by the death of Gavroche, the brave, young boy caught up in the people’s struggle for justice. Harry Napier, as Gavroche, portrays the character with such vigour and conviction, he is entirely believable in this role.
The entire show is enhanced by the wonderful music provide by the live orchestra, led by Musical Director, Richard Allan and many will recognise the better known songs, such as ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ and ‘One Day More’. Emma Stephen as Little Cosette sings a beautiful, sweet version of ‘Castle on a Cloud’.
There is never a dull moment when it comes to the set which involves a rotating stage, trapdoors, pyrotechnics and wonderful lighting, all of which keep the audience entranced with the imagination and professionalism that has gone into this show.
The individuals who sang their hearts out and, at times, brought the audience to tears are too many to name but the effort and commitment given by each and every member of this young company and the adults who guide them has given the people of Angus a wonderful opportunity to be treated to this magnificent spectacle right on their doorstep.
The show runs again tonight (Friday) with both a matinee and evening performance on Saturday and is truly a show not to be missed.