Les Misérables (School Edition)

Les Misérables is a musical based on the 1862 French novel by Victor Hugo that tells the tale of an ex convict who flees his parole, meets a generous priest, becomes mayor of a town, adopts the child of a dying prostitute before getting caught up in a French Revolution (not the famous one - a smaller, less successful, political one) in Paris and finally redeeming himself in the eyes of the policeman who has vowed to return him to prison. Not exactly what you'd consider suitable for musical adaptation but it has gone on to be one of the most famous and well-loved musicals with multiple awards and thousands of performances across the world.

Captivate Theatre has done a fine job yet again and I wouldn't be surprised to one day see many of these talented young performers on the professional stage.

Captivate Theatre's production is the popular School Edition which has some minor tweaks to the score which drops many of the higher notes into an easier range for young voices and many of the songs and scenes have been shortened to reduce the epic running time.

The Famous Spiegeltent isn't an ideal space for such a large show but the staging is confidently minimal using several wooden boxes as chairs, tables, beds and finally the barricades upon which the uprising will fall. The lack of wings and a proper backstage meant that the production could have benefitted from some more innovative use of the space around the audience rather than having the cast constantly use the central aisle for entrances and exits. It was often difficult to know when we should be watching the stage or the door to the rear of the venue.

The setting isn't so important, though, as the singing which is of a truly high standard for such a young cast. Special mention must go to the three actors who form the central love triangle of Les Misérables; Ross Jamieson and Cate Anderson as Marius and Cosette bring real emotion to the roles which are so often bland and uninteresting. They have a genuine connection and perfectly portray the nervous, tender, first love of their characters. Jamieson's Empty Chairs at Empty Tables was a highlight and I found myself wishing that Cosette had a worthwhile solo number to let Anderson's voice shine on its own. Anna Macleod as the doomed Eponine is feisty yet vulnerable and her rendition of On My Own stands alongside any professional production I've seen.

Calum Stott does an admirable job of Valjean's show-stopper Bring Him Home and is a solid lead for the cast to rally to in the big numbers. The performance really comes alive when the full ensemble took to the stage. Harmonies were tight and the supporting cast all shone as individuals whilst never drawing too much attention from the leads.

I should end this review by admitting that I'm a huge fan of Les Misérables and I was uncertain how I'd feel about seeing such a young cast tackle one of my favourite musicals but Captivate Theatre has done a fine job yet again and I wouldn't be surprised to one day see many of these talented young performers on the professional stage.

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The Blurb

Captivate Theatre brings the world’s longest-running musical Les Misérables back to the Fringe after four sell-out years. In the intimate surroundings of The Famous Spiegeltent, this is sure to be a unique production. ‘A wonderful and impressively professional performance of the classic musical ... Stupendous ... Absolutely superb’ (EdfringeReview.com, 2013). ‘The vocal performances here belie their age and experience ... Staunch direction, both musical and dramatic, as well as the obvious talent of the performers lead to a rousing night out. Their energy and commitment blasts through to the audience’ (Audience Review, 2012).