Review of Les Misérables - Hurstpierpoint College

Review of Les Misérables

Les Misérables is, arguably, the most popular musical in modern times which makes it a tricky one to get right. I must admit that I am not the biggest fan of musical theatre, but I must equally admit that this production did make me, and many others, walk out of the theatre humming the melodies out loud. This was only achieved through the effort and commitment that the cast and crew gave to this production to create a truly spectacular performance.

From the moment the prisoners stepped onto the stage to the demise of Valjean, the audience were treated to constant talent, amusement and entertainment, with each cast member bringing something new to the stage. It remained uplifting throughout despite the grim nature of the story. I was especially fascinated by the dynamic between Madame Thenardier and Thenardier, played by Annie Mc and Oscar G, which acted as a minor reassurance to the audience because of the humour their relationship provided. What was perfectly portrayed in this production was the way they both had differing opinions on both the extravagance of where they live and their opinion on the so-called ‘Master of the House’. What they ultimately provided, and what this production capitalised on, was the laughable eccentric nature of the characters, set alongside the somewhat bleak plot of the play.

Boys in Les Mis drama production

Doing nothing by halves, this production also had a revolve – the first time one has been used at the college – a facility which is often tempting to overuse due to sheer excitement, but on this occasion it was skilfully implemented. This was particularly evident when used in Act Two to rotate the barricade which was assembled on stage before the audience. The barricade was a stunning set-piece which fitted perfectly into place and coloured the action with stage movement. Indeed, there was an entire sequence in which the barricade moved as the rebels were picked off by the army. Often an overbuilt set can get in the way of the storytelling but in this production, the set was used to give the audience a sense of the honest desperation the students felt in their rebellion.

The commanding vocal power throughout demonstrated the elegance of this production. It’s a common stereotype that girls are more suited to musicals because they typically have a broader vocal range but there were some powerful lead male singers in Sam A, Callum D, Henry S, Freddie E and Lewis P. Of course, this is not to say that the lead female singers were lacking in any way. There were stunning vocals from Natalie H, Heather L, Georgia H, Ella H, Katie P, Amy M, Ellie R and Rosie W-S on each of their respective nights, due to the split of the cast. These high-level vocals gave the audience confirmation of the indispensable enthusiasm and talent which was present across the board. But the production would not have been able to reach such an extraordinary standard without the wondrous vocal capabilities of the ensemble and supporting cast which lifted the quality of the piece as a whole. For all of them to be on stage every night, belting their hearts out to the many and varied iconic Les Mis songs, was an incredible achievement. It was a true testament of the cast’s ability to be entirely dedicated to this show.

In addition to the energy resonating from the stage, Mr Matthews – who was located just below the front of the stage – directed the orchestra exceptionally well. A non-stop effort from the first to last beat, including the changes which occurred between scenes, with a musical score that is particularly difficult to get right, especially considering the size of the orchestra he was commanding. Also, without Mr Gasper’s direction and the help that he received from Milestone Productions – the new title for Hurst’s production team as – there would not have been such a spectacle for us to feast our eyes upon.

This year’s musical was a perfect example of the magic that happens when you assemble a large cast and crew, throw inclusiveness into every scene and ignite a real passion from everyone involved. The result was an exceptionally high-quality school production of Les Misérables and an inspiration to everyone who watched it.

By Aengus D, Lower Sixth student