Last night it was my privilege to be witness to a superb production of “Les Miserables” staged by AYT at the Paradise Church auditorium/theatre. Along with hundreds of others in the audience (yes, hundreds!) we were treated to a satisfyingly slick and professional performance.
It was remarkable in so many ways. Direction within such a brief rehearsal time frame by Ray Cullen; musical direction by Mark Stefanoff with orchestra conducted by Mark DeLaine were key to a most successful outcome. Pivotal production team members were the masters of light and sound Matt Ralph and Cambell Lawrence along with stunning visuals (also by Matt Lawrence) and costumes by Louise Hamilton and her large team of helpers. All was superintended backstage by Anthea Browne. The resulting package was a triumph!
The generous performance space together with the catwalk that encompassed the orchestra was used to clever effect. The large cast moved onto and across the stage with seamless ease often entering from aisles in the vast auditorium. The audience focused on the story immediately and that focus did not waver. We remained under the spell of the performers throughout.
The cast was singularly brilliant and their concentration admirable.. All of them! I cannot recall a flawed moment or an awkward pause. Connor Olsson-Jones hit all the right notes both emotionally and musically especially with the haunting anthem “Bring Him Home”. Matt Monti was a hypnotically good Javert. His articulation and vocal work revealed a depth of maturity and promise. Ayla Kennedy as young Cosette earned a well deserved accolade for her rendition of “Castle on a Cloud” and Tiffany Gaze as Fantine displayed mature stage presence throughout and delivered an excellent “I Dreamed a Dream”.
The Thenardiers, Diana Baddams and Liam Tomlin worked brilliantly as rollicking and conniving publicans. They were certainly Masters of their House! EJ Downing was a fine Eponine and her melancholy “On my Own” was splendid. Aj Patel as Marius and Sophie Davies as the adult Cosette delivered vocals clear and true in all that they did whilst Enjolras (an energetic Jack Raft) lead his comrades on the barricades by example. The final solo by Marius ,”Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” was a knockout! And then there was Gavroche. Young Harrison Thomas stole the show whenever he was on stage!
Yet it was the ensemble factor that was the real hero of the piece. The well coordinated and modulated orchestra was just outstanding. So too was all the chorus work. Male, female and the whole ensemble were well disciplined and responsibly constructed the atmospherics of the evening with show stopping numbers such as “Red and Black” and “Do you hear the People Sing”. I am so pleased to see so many young men involved in community theatre. It bodes well for the future.
This production was a rare treat to witness. I thought so and so did each and every audience member seated near to me. That is what it is all about, leaving people wanting more! My congratulations to everybody involved.