Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle
THE phenominal world-wide success of Les Miserables
surely speaks volumes but is it really as good as it would have
Adapted from Victor Hugo's powerful novel by Alain Boublil, and
with music by Claude-Michael Schonberg, Les Miserables
captures the very essence of life in 19th century France - a time
of extreme hardship, disillusionment and increasing civil unrest,
in particular, for the men and women who have become the outcasts
and underdogs of society. They are 'Les Miserables' and this is
At its core is the conflict between two men - Jean Valjean, at
heart, a goodly man, but a victim of his own miserable circumstances,
and Javert, an officer of the law whose unbending principles of
justice eventually lead to his undoing.
Their lives and those befriended and loved by Jean Valjean become
inextricably entwined - the wretched Fantine, whose illegitimate
daughter, Cosette, is cared for by the thieving, lying Thenardiers
whose own daughter, Eponine, is destined to fall in love with
idealistic student, Marius, who, in turn, is captivated by Cosette.
And if all this sounds complicated,
don't worry. Programmes provide an excellent synopsis.
The whole of Les Miserables is, of course, set to music
in what the media once dubbed 'pop opera' and, for this reason
alone, it may not appeal to everyone.
That said, it would be a pity to let this deter you as it's the
music, perhaps more than anything else, that evokes a plethora
of emotion in a story that explores every facet of human nature.
Who, for instance, can fail to pity Fantine in I Dreamed
A Dream; laugh out loud at the effrontery of the bickering
Thenardiers in Master of the House, or be genuinely inspired
by the patriotic fervour of Do You Hear the People Sing?
Stirring stuff indeed.
For the most part, sets are simple but no less effective for
that, the one exception being the barricade scene; the barricade
itself filling the stage, finally turning a full 360 degrees to
reveal the terrible and shocking aftermath of the confrontation.
At face value, Les Miserables might seem a dull and
depressing subject for a musical, but the clever mix of humour,
pathos, love and loyalty weaves a magical aura that stays with
you long after the final curtain.
In my opinion, Les Miserables most definitely lives
up to its reputation but don't take my word for it - go judge