Theatre Review: Les Miserables at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

If you’ve visited the blog before, you may be aware that I have a slight *cough*obsessive*cough* fondness for Les Miserables. It’s one of my favourite books, my all-time favourite musical and I am frankly way too emotionally invested in the lives of fictional French revolutionaries.

It’s been a while (2009) since I’ve been able to see it live; being based in Aberdeen means London trips need to be jam packed to be worthwhile and I’ve not been able to fit in an extra showing of Les Miz with all the other stuff we’ve wanted to see the last few times we’ve been down. I saw the 25th Anniversary performance at the livestream though and the 10th Anniversary DVD remains one of my favourite cast recordings ever.

I was lucky enough to be able to get tickets to see the UK tour company perform during their sold-out run in Edinburgh. My husband and I went down to the matinee performance on Thursday and I was absolutely blown away by it. I have nothing more coherent to say besides: what a bloody spectacular cast.

seriously awesome cast
It’s a seriously awesome cast!

When I arrived at the theatre I was, to quote Blackadder’s Lieutenant George, as excited as a very excited person who has a special reason to be excited and so like a total idiot I failed to notice the board explaining who was performing each role for that particular performance. If I refer to the wrong performer therefore, I apologise!

I could basically just say that every single cast member was totally amazing and that would be 100% accurate, but a couple of performances defy even that description. Having been first introduced to the musical through the 10th Anniversary concert, my definitive Javert has always been the magnificent Philip Quast. I’ve seen several really good Javerts since, but no one who could quite challenge him for the top spot…until Thursday. Nic Greenshields was just out of this world. I wish I could be more eloquent and do him justice, but he was just bloody astonishing, and every other synonym you’d find in the thesaurus. That wonderful rich, deep soulfulness of the voice that makes hairs stand up on the back of your neck…he just about blew the roof off the theatre with Stars and I loved his emotionally-laden version of Javert’s Suicide.

I’m not quite sure if it was Killian Donnelly or his understudy performing Valjean; we were sat quite far back and with the beard and wig I kept swithering back and forth on whether I recognised his face or not. Either way, he was a brilliant Valjean; fierce and driven, then tender and emotional. There were more than a few sniffles (not all of them me!) during Bring Him Home. Having just re-read the book, his performance really underscored what a wonderfully complex and richly-layered character Jean Valjean actually is. I was a complete mess during his final scene.

Katie Hall’s Fantine was beautifully tragic and she absolutely knocked I Dreamed a Dream right out of the park!

I loved the students and Gavroche so much. I know it definitely wasn’t Will Richardson as Enjolras as he put up an Instagram post about exploring Scotland that same day so I assume it was Leo Miles, whose performance was inspiring and uplifting, just as Enjolras should be. The whole group was brilliant and I loved the little bond that was developed between Gavroche and Grantaire. During Drink with Me, after Enjolras and Grantaire had their moment, Grantaire went off alone but was followed and hugged by Gavroche. When Gavroche was killed climbing over the barricade, Enjolras was the one who caught him and then passed him to Grantaire. There were no extra lines added here but the sheer devastation Ruben van keer managed to portray just standing there and holding the body was a punch right in the heart.

Also, please note BBC that that is how you do book-accurate portrayals of Les Amis de L’ABC.

The staging was completely updated from the last time I saw the show, and so made it all new and fresh for me. I really liked it. Instead of the barricade revolving to show Enjolras hanging over the side post-battle, Javert returns to the barricade hunting for Valjean and is greeted by a National Guardsman dragging Enjolras’s body in a cart. Pausing for a moment over the corpse of Gavroche (a nice nod to the film). Javert loads the boy in beside the rebel leader. Given that he did so just as the strain of ‘he’s like the son I might have known’ was played, it made everything extra poignant.

Given that the audience went nuts with cheers when the show concluded I think it’s pretty safe to say that everyone else enjoyed it as much as I did. It’s probably a good thing that the stage at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen is too small to host Les Miserables: after that performance, I’d have been bankrupt going to see it over and over again if it was local!

This is not the most articulate blog post I’ve ever written, but seriously this cast is SO BLOODY GOOD it’s difficult to do them justice coherently. If you’re lucky enough to live near somewhere where there are still tickets available then go get some immediately!


1 thought on “Theatre Review: Les Miserables at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh”

  1. You and I both have an obsession with Les Mis.

    An obsession I thought would never be.

    It began with the movie musical. I had to give it a 2nd chance before knowing if I even liked Les Mis.

    2013- saw the stage show three times at Central Piedmont Community College- once with family and twice as an usher. This production was the motor for developing my dream of seeing it in the West End.

    2013- Film of 25th Concert

    2015- West Production in July with understudy as Jean Valjean

    2017- US Tour in Greenville with understudy as Eponine

    *So I have seen 5 casts of Les Mis

    So I ended up seeing the stage show every other year. This year, I have a chance to see the stage show again- it is coming right back to Charlotte (last time, the US Tour came to Charlotte, I choose Greenville to go with my University). So I am hoping to see it again this year.

    Liked by 1 person

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