It’s natural to enter a theatre with slight trepidation when you’re about to watch a production of Les Miserables. Presented by SOSage Factory, the youth section of Solihull on Stage, it was quickly apparent that this group of young performers were no strangers to accepting a challenge. And boy, did they rise to the occasion.
Possessing one of the more complicated scores in musical theatre, the company ably tackled it with gusto. Under the Musical Direction of Mel O'Donnell, harmonies rang through, with particularly excellent vocals from the entirety of the principal cast. There were also some strong vocals displayed by some individual ensemble members, notably Joe Canning and Dan Bradbury.
Richard Loughran made for a striking Javert, dogmatic in performance with brooding vocals, his rendition of Stars was haunting. Taking on the daunting role of Jean Valjean was Matt Smith, vocally confident throughout; he brought a beautiful maturity to Bring Him Home and led the show exceedingly well.
Eilidh Evans's Fantine and Kathryn Ritchie's Eponine each excelled in their roles. Both performances combined a depth of character and passionate vocals. A Little Fall of Rain was quietly masterful. Poignant and moving, it was an outstandingly moving moment.
Strong supporting performances came from Patrick Shannon as Marius, Elizabeth McLurgh as Cosette, Ethan York-Biggs as Gavroche and Charlie Loughran as Enjolras.
Near show-stealing performances came from the duo of Thernadier and Madame Thernadier. Ciaran Walker and Georgia Rabone shone in their respective roles, bold, brash and hilarious - they each possessed some seriously impressive talent.
Despite some minor microphone hiccups, this production provided the perfect stage to showcase some of Solihull's brightest talent.
There was no doubt that audiences were moved by this company, with a performance that more than exceeded their years. The audible sniffs and visible tears made it abundantly clear that this is one talented group. You have to pinch yourself occasionally to remind yourself they are all aged 18 or under. But more than this, the beauty of this production lies in the camaraderie. The stage was filled with a formidable team of performers and I'm sure the rest of the team behind the scenes are bursting with pride.
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