Les Miserables has to be regarded one of the most challenging shows to stage and the feat of pulling it off would be the highest achievement of any group. It is rarely performed in the amateur world given that the rights are only available to schools and youth groups. Having seen this show many times I am always tinged with a touch of nervousness of whether this time will be on par with the rest. Stratford Musical Theatre Company rose to the challenge and smashed it. From spine tingling vocals to rib tickling comedy this production had it all.
We are quickly thrown into 19th Century France and to the fearsome tirade of Alexander Fox’s Javert. He played the role of the law-abiding policeman with great confidence and power.
One of the most challenging roles in the show is Fantine, the hard done factory girl who finds herself lured into the seedy world of prostitution Lovely Ladies. With less than 25 minutes of stage time any actress must ensure she leaves a lasting impression and Florence Cain certainly did. Her anguish and despair really shone through in I Dreamed a Dream leaving me with the hairs on the back of my neck standing up.
Rachael McDonnell and Jon Luke Goodman as the Thenardiers brought hilarious comic relief as they perfectly embodied the low life scroungers. McDonnell in particular commanded the stage in the final moments of Master of the House. Mollie Dibb gave a lovely Cosette with soaring vocals alongside Nathan Wooley as Enjolras who really shone in his role of leader of the revolution. Elisea Hooper gave us a perfect portrayal of the heartbroken Eponine.
The show delivered some solid acting choices with several of these coming from its lead character Jean Val Jean played by the talented Isaac Aston. His ability to act well beyond his years together with his superb vocals really makes him a force to be reckoned with as he proved in a spine tingling Bring Him Home.
The principle cast really came together complimenting each other to deliver a great piece of theatre but for me one person really stood out. Never have I seen a portrayal of Marius exude such confidence and talent. From the moment Tristan Barford appeared on stage he executed great characterisation and faultless vocals. His haunting rendition of Empty Chairs at Empty Tables is one of the best I’ve seen. Barford is certainly a rising star and one to look out for.
The ensemble of this show was one of the strongest I have seen in a youth production and with a larger performance space coupled with a minimalistic set it gave them the opportunity to excel in every number they performed. A special mention to Joseph Stairs for Lighting Design which really added to the atmosphere of the setting and all the numbers.
To label this show as amateur theatre I can tell you now it is anything but. This group has an extortionate amount of talented individuals with some that would rival those performing on a West End Stage. Les Miserables is often defined as ‘the’ show of Musical Theatre and let me tell you, this lot nailed it.
Les Miserables performs at Stratford Arts House - 8th-10th March 2018
Director: Judi Walton
MD: Sam Young
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