Les Misérables, CYGAMS – Civic Theatre, Chelmsford
When Les Misérables first opened in 1985 it received some very negative reviews from the critics, but the audiences loved it – which just goes to show that Critics and reviews are just one opinion of a show.
Watching CYGAMS perform this now classic musical tonight took me back to the many years I worked with the show during its West End run and with that in mind, I have to say that I was amazed by the vocal skills on display with tonight’s cast. There are two casts undertaking the principal roles and tonight we saw the Red Cast.
The set was simple and hugely effective allowing for height and lots of lovely pictures which was really necessary with such a large cast on stage. I have to congratulate Director Jimmy Hooper on managing such a large cast so effectively.
Playing Jean Valjean was Dan Hall. Dan clearly has some excellent vocals, however, having worked with numerous actors playing the role over the years I really would have preferred if this wasn’t a vocal copy of Colm Wilkinson but that Dan had delivered his own version, as he clearly has the vocal ability, but we should remember that for an adult actor to deliver such a large role is a challenge - so this was a great performance by him.
Playing Valjean’s nemesis as Javert was Jack Gunn. Jack also has a superb voice and this was such a mature and strong performance with great stage presence. For me, his was the performance of the night.
Abby Murphy as Fantine was another incredibly strong singer and her rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ was so touching and perfectly delivered. We should remember that many of these songs have a place in the musical hall of fame and therefore to make it your own is quite a challenge but Abby certainly achieved this.
Jessie Hadley as Cosette and Ben Collins as Marius were superbly matched, both delivered strong performances and Ben's rendition of 'Empty Chairs at Empty Tables' was heart-wrenching. Georgia Clements as Eponine also gave us a beautiful rendition of ‘On My Own’ and held her own amongst the many other strong performances during the evening.
It is hard sometimes to believe these are teenagers taking on these mammoth roles and iconic songs.
The majority of the comedy comes from the Thenardiers with Jack Charlesworth as Monsieur Thenardier and Millie Parsons as Madame Thenardier. Both Jack and Millie revelled in these characters giving us such fun and some great comedic timing moments.
Matt Hedges led the students as Enjolras and in fact, the students as a whole were all very strong and their versions of ‘Red & Black’ and ‘Do You Hear the People Sing’ were both very emotional pieces.
Anna Edmondson as Young Cosette sang very sweetly and Joseph Papalie as Gavroche had all the character and cockiness for the part if a little pitchy in places with his singing.
Overall this was a terrific production and the standard across the board of all those we saw tonight was exceptional. The band was a great support for the cast and I was so impressed by the levels of performance I saw from the entire company.
Huge congratulations to all of those involved on and off stage for contributing to such a first-class musical.