I have never seen Les Miserable and wasn’t sure what to expect from a production set in revolutionary France which isn’t exactly renowned for its light moments. Given my misgivings I couldn’t believe how differently I felt by the end of the evening. What an introduction to the longest-running musical in the world! I was in awe of the standard of the production, the amount of work that had gone into it, the consideration to detail, clever casting and the professionalism of the performances.
Exploring the themes of religion, morality, law and poverty, it’s a challenging play to tackle even for the most seasoned professionals but the Our Lady’s students rose to the test. It was hard to appreciate this version of Les Miserable was performed by students ranging from 11 to 16 years old as this was no amateur production. Each cast member put their all into their performance showcasing some exceptional young talent as Victor Hugo’s classic novel was brought to life with sheer energy and dramatic aplomb.
The story follows Jean Valjean’s quest for redemption after serving nineteen years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. Our protagonist, petty thief Valjean was beautifully portrayed by Year 8 student Abraham Oladapo. His incredible execution of the leading role belied his age with his diminutive stature doing nothing to deflect from the prominence of his performance.
Valjean’s arch adversary, the merciless police chief Javert, played by Sean Baker put in a sterling performance that went above and beyond (I’ll get back to that in due course!) Cast members as young as year 7 demonstrated a confidence and maturity beyond their years as they embraced the characterisation and captured the imagination of the audience transporting them back to nineteenth revolutionary France.
Valjean’s fortunes are reversed as he becomes a wealthy manufacturer and is elected the Mayor of a small town. He is forced to flee when Javert tracks him down is becomes suspicious of him. Javert’s daughter, Cosette falls in love with a young revolutionary who is injured in a fight. Valjean carries him safely through the sewers but continues to be plagued by his past until his death.
The dialogue is entirely sung which was another reservation I had before I sat down to this theatrical masterpiece. From the opening lyrics of ‘Look Down’ to the finale, the action flowed seamlessly and with a momentum that made me forget the characters were communicating the story though song.
I was in awe of the professional quality of the singing – even those students whose singing wasn’t quite as polished overcame this with their strong and confident delivery. Rebecca Thomas gave a moving performance as the unfortunate Fantine with a fantastically controlled rendition of ‘I dreamed a dream’ demonstrating an impressive range and conveying evocative expression befitting of her character’s feelings of despair.
Comedic moments lightened the otherwise bleak and intensely powerful story, thanks to the reprehensible innkeeper Monsieur Thenardier – the villain of the piece – alongside his disreputable wife Madame Thenadier. Kai Keogh and Emma McCall gave gloriously entertaining performances as the immoral couple; both embracing their characters and perfectly portraying the wicked spitefulness and cynicism captured by Victor Hugo’s novel. Kai’s rendition of ‘Master of the House’ punctuated the desolation of the era providing a somewhat upbeat interlude.
With so many impeccable performances, I’m hard-pressed to express the credit each cast member deserves. Caitlin Lockwood was fully immersed in her character of Enjolras, the leader of the revolution and Maria Collins shone in her role as Eponine. Leighton Currie gave an incredible portrayal as Marius whose life was changed when he unexpectedly falls in love giving Cossette – delightfully played by Keeley Lane – some happiness in the otherwise bleak proceedings. And a mention must go to Ciaran Lockwood who was fantastic in the role of the cheeky, street-wise urchin Gavroche.
Javert’s fall to death was a show-stealer that resulted in Sean Baker enduring a shoulder injury and having to do Friday evening’s show with a sling. It’s said you have to suffer for your art and this is surely testament to the commitment of our students to their school production!
Thanks to Mr Banham, Miss Nicholson, Miss Jones, Miss Durbin and Miss Woosey and to everyone else who contributed to this incredible production. It’s a real team effort to pull together a polished production like this, let alone in the midst of a school inspection and the Our Lady’s team certainly pulled it out of the bag. Strong musical and theatrical direction, slick set changes, atmospheric lighting and the live orchestra further enriched the dramatic presentation of this musical extravaganza. Behind the scenes the technical team worked hard to ensure the action unfolded without interruption.
Some of these talented students are destined for a dazzling West-End career. We’re already looking forward to next year’s production – Mr Banham, you’ve set the bar incredibly high!
Review written by Anna Barker
"I was fortunate enough to attend the performance of “Les Miserables” on Friday 3rd February this year.
I felt that I should write to you to express my gratitude, as this was surely the best performance of the show I have experienced.
Like you I have seen the show performed professionally in London and Manchester but this was the first time I have been connected emotionally to the stage performance. Your students are a credit to their community. To describe the actors as outstanding would be to understate their performances as they were beyond outstanding.
Please pass on my thanks to the cast and the adults involved in the production. I know that all successful projects are based on hard work and commitment and your school has these in abundance.
I am looking forward to your next show."
Mr P J Cooper
“Can't explain how proud I am of my baby sis Keeley performing in her school production Les Miserables, she was absolutely amazing.”
Shannon Clare Lane
"I would like to congratulate the staff and pupils involved in the production of Les Miserables. The singing was incredibly moving. I have seen a number of productions at school and enjoyed them all, but this was something special."
Theresa Riley (Year 7 parent)
“Not one for musicals but I enjoyed the show. I enjoyed the inn keeper’s character the most – it was well played.”
“They have done a fantastic job with it and thank you to all the teachers who have helped, supported and guided them through the rehearsals. You always put on a good show and the dedication and hard work of the children and staff shows through all the time.”
“Look at the talent of the students at Our Lady’s!”