‘Les Miserables’, The Essex Group – Witham Public Hall. 22/2/17
Photo : Jack Herbert
Having worked on this show in the West End in the mid-90’s, I am always amazed to see youth groups present this classic musical with such energy and professionalism.
The storyline revolves around the life story of Jean Valjean. In this production, the role of Valjean was in the very safe hands of Scott Olley. It is difficult to believe this is his first leading role as he has such a strong stage presence and voice. His rendition of ‘Bring him Home’ was truly magical.
We must remember that no one part is complete without other characters to play opposite and certainly there was no shortage of excellent principals in the line-up.
A few individuals who were particularly strong were William Ireton as Javert, who had excellent vocals and delivered my personal favourite song in the show ‘Stars’ impeccably. I also really liked Matthew Hedges as Enjolras – despite being one of the younger principals, he has a natural talent and a magnetic quality on stage – he is certainly a young performer to watch for the future.
From the ladies, there were two particularly strong performances. Firstly, Olivia Herbert as Cosette who showed great maturity in her performance and has the voice of an angel and Isabelle Robinson, who was just enchanting and completely believable as the love-struck Eponine.
With such a large cast it’s difficult to name everyone but there were also good performances from Scott Dingwall as Marius who has a lovely timbre to the lower end of his vocal range but he did struggle a little with the upper end, Amber Turner as Fantine and Sally Parker as the coarse Innkeepers Wife, Madame Thenadier.
Monsieur Thernadier, who is the comic foil in this dramatic musical was played by Tom Jervis. It is obvious Tom has strong theatrical talents because these were evident in the many other different smaller roles he played throughout the show but as Thernadier, I personally felt on occasions, he overplayed it, making it more like a pantomime than a musical theatre characterisation but I am confident the audience will love him anyway.
I must also mention that there was one chorus member who particularly stood out -George Bedwell, his history and experience with the group, is perhaps the reason for his likeability on stage. Overall the principal performers were of an extremely high quality and gave this production the high standards I witnessed last night.
I should also mention that I saw Team Javert perform last night and on alternative performances, a selection of the roles will be played by Team Valjean.
Despite my knowing the show ‘word for word’ there were some issues with poor diction in places which made it difficult to distinguish what was being said and sung. This might be down to opening night nerves or part of this may have been down to the balance of the orchestra which was rather loud in places.
There were also several technical issues last night with both the sound/microphones and the follow spots (who didn’t seem to know who they were supposed to be following) but this hard working cast didn’t let it phase them at all and I am confident that these will be ironed out on subsequent performances.
The costumes were all great and perfectly in keeping with the piece and the set was fantastic, I really liked the use of the chairs for various parts of the set and of course the barricade which was lit beautifully.
Anyone who has already seen the show or the film will not be disappointed by this production. The quality of the principal line-up made it an extremely enjoyable show to watch.
The show runs at Witham Public Hall until Saturday and if you can get tickets before they sell out, you should definitely make the effort to see it.