Trying to do a hallowed musical such as
Manages to keep the great moments that makes the show such a loved piece of theatre.
The story of Les Mis is well known. Jean Valjean steals some bread and goes on a grand adventure through the revolution, but the cut of this show is noticeable for how quickly it works its way through this tale. It removes a lot from certain plot-superfluous songs, most noticeably Stars, which rushes the story and fails to give certain characters time to mature. Eponine and Javert, two of the deepest characters, suffer the most from this, with almost all of their songs reduced almost nothing. Other characters have their full songs, but the speed of the pacing means that their stories don’t have the time they need to develop in order to create the well-rounded characters we know them to be.
The set also weakens the overall impact. Like the scripts if comes in a reduced form, made from boxes, which in themselves are not unattractive but collectively remain unimpressive. The tech is in similar vein: competently constructed and executed but technically capable but not on a scale to meet the enormous demands of the musical.
That said, any performance of Les Miserables is bound to have moments that make you shiver with glee. The band absolutely brought down the house, playing Claude-Michel Schonberg’s score to near perfection. Performances across the board were successful for company of teenagers attempting such a colossal work, with Conall Ross’ Marius standing out in particular. When those two combined, in songs like Stars, One Day More, Master of the House and Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, you’re reminded of that feeling of watching this show in the West End, with its thrilling orchestra and gorgeous production.
To perform Les Miserables School Edition at the Fringe is a bold choice, but one that I’m glad this company made. It isn’t perfect; however, it still manages to keep the great moments that makes the show such a loved piece of theatre. Without the grand scale it falls short of true greatness, but die-hard fans of the show should not be disappointed.