Les Miserables West End Review || March 16

Exactly two weeks ago today, I saw Les Miserables for the fifth time. It was my fourth time seeing the West End production and my third time seeing Carrie Hope Fletcher and Rob Houchen as Eponine and Marius. I saw about half of the cast this past summer, but we had understudies Simon Shorten and James Gant on as Valjean and Javert so I knew it was going to be a bit different than what I saw eight months ago! If I seem a little bit gushy, I apologize...this cast is my favorite and I'm already sad thinking about cast change in June.

The Queens Theatre is probably my favorite theatre in the entire world because it's just gorgeous. We had incredible seats in the front right of the stalls where we could see everything; it was such an incredible experience to really get to see the expressions on the actors' faces!

My love for the West End production of Les Mis really knows no bounds. It was the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary concert that sparked my interest in musical theatre. Les Mis holds a very special place in my heart, as it's become a large part of my identify and seeing it live is always somewhat of a spiritual experience for me. After seeing Les Mis Broadway last summer and being heartbroken that it didn't elicit the feelings in me that Les Mis always had before, I was overjoyed when Les Mis West End touched my heart so deeply when I saw it again this past summer. There's nothing like that moment when the barricade revolves to reveal Enjolras's body. (I sob like a baby every time. Just ask my mother or Stefanie.)

On a side note, the audience was INCREDIBLE the night that we saw Les Mis! Thunderous applause, an almost immediate standing ovation at the end of the show...it was a crowd of people that I was pleased to be amongst. (Even if one of the guys in front of me turned around when I was crying. Yes, I am crying because the Barricade Boys died. So what?)

Simon Shorten as Valjean (x)
After seeing Peter Lockyer this summer, I was very disappointed when I realized that he would be off the night that we were seeing the show. However, I absolutely loved Simon's Valjean. He played the convict role more convincingly than many I've seen and he hits all of Valjean's difficult notes beautifully. His interactions with the women of the show (Fantine, little Cosette, Cosette, Eponine) were particularly lovely to watch. I'm notoriously picky about the song "Bring Him Home" but Simon gives a very lullaby-esque rendition that definitely pulls at your heartstrings.

James Gant as Javert (x)
Likewise, I was a bit disappointed not to be seeing David Thaxton again, but James Gant absolutely blew me away. My mum and I agreed that watching James Gant was a bit like watching Russell Crowe as Javert...but with a very impressive singing voice. He has the perfect look for a Javert, but even more importantly he played Javert as a rather nice guy...until you run from the law. His "Suicide" was stunning; one of the things I've begun to judge Javert's by is if it's obvious why he would commit suicide and James Gant played a man whose world had crumbled to the ground incredibly well. I can't say enough good things about his Javert and definitely hope that he'll be promoted to principle when David Thaxton leaves.

Celinde Schoenmaker as Fantine (x)
I love Celinde's Fantine because she pours so much emotion into "I Dreamed a Dream" that I actually cried. (I rarely cry before the barricade section so this really means something!) Her Fantine is such an incredibly strong woman who continues to fight back against the world until the very last minute. She also broke my heart in "At the End of the Day" because her Fantine seems to believe that everything will be okay and that the situation will be sorted out until the moment she's fired. Sadly, I always miss Celinde at stage door so I didn't get a chance to tell her how incredible she was!

Wendy Ferguson as Madame Thenardier (x)
I think that the thing that Wendy Ferguson truly excels at is bringing a humanity to the characters that she plays that makes even antagonists sympathetic. Her Carlotta in the Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary Concert is nothing short of stunning and her Madame Thenardier is a scene-stealer. Every so often, the proof of her vocal ability slips out and is stunning...she's also a hilarious comedienne who makes every line even funnier than you've ever heard it before.

Carrie Hope Fletcher as Eponine (x)
Chances are, if you've read anything on this blog before, you already know how much of a fan I am of Carrie Hope Fletcher. Not only is she an incredibly talented author and YouTuber and a lovely role model, she's also my favorite Eponine of all time!

Carrie plays a fierce and fiesty Eponine who is angry at her situation in life. Her "On My Own" is exactly how I would want to hear the song sung: not a hint of self-pity, only intense anger that she can't get what she wants. However, some of my favorite moments of Carrie's are actually in "Look Down"...when she laughs in Montparnasse's face when he pulls a knife on her (it's terrifying in all the best ways) and how she strokes Marius's hair when she sings, "I like the way you grow your hair."

I'm so excited for see what Carrie is going to do after leaving Les Mis, but I'm already heartbroken at the idea of other people not getting the gift of watching her!

Rob Houchen as Marius (x)
Rob's Marius is so sweet and cute that you honestly expect half of Paris to be in love with him, instead of just two girls. His naive affection towards Eponine is adorable and his sincere grief at her death is heart-breaking. However, it's his rendition of "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" that wins him the title of My Favorite Marius. The first time I saw him sing it, I broke down into ugly sobbing because he made me truly understand the lyrics for the first time. And seeing it from only a few rows away from the stage allowed me to see how truly fantastic of an actor he is.

Michael Colbourne as Enjolras (x)
I've been blessed to have seen some incredible Enjolras's in my time and Michael definitely ranks amongst the top few. His vocals are incredible, but it's his acting that truly stands out. His physical presence on stage just screams Enjolras and he manages to play a man who is both friend and leader to the rest of the Barricade Boys (quite a few Enjolras's only manage one or the other). His interactions with both Marius and Grantaire are lovely and his is definitely one of the stand-out performances in the cast. I can't believe this is his West End debut!

Christian Edwards as Grantaire (x)
I saved the best for last...Christian Edwards is the Grantaire the world deserves. I've never cried most over Grantaire before, but somehow Christian made that happen. He has surprisingly lovely vocals in "Drink With Me" and acts the role fabulously. His interactions with both Enjolras and Marius are at turns hilarious and heartbreaking. My favorite bit is probably when he responds to Enjolras's line "Who cares about your lonely soul?" with an energetic "I do!"

You could watch his slow spiral downwards starting with Eponine's death, as he realized long before the others that they were all going to die. It was hard to look anywhere else during the fall of the barricade! I'm so excited to see where Christian's acting career will go next; I predict great things for him. (He was also super sweet at stage door!)

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