Because it is such a well-known musical, and because it is so musically and dramatically challenging, Les Miserables provides serious challenges to theatre groups. Fortunately for all, Scotch College’s Performing Arts department is well and truly up to those challenges. This production was stunning.
The school has a real depth of talent, exemplified by the fact that in such a demanding musical they are able to provide two casts in principal roles. I saw the “London” cast, led in authoritative style by Harry Fiedler as Jean Valjean. He commanded the stage, provided the right balance of confidence and humility, and sang with strength and sensitivity.
His role was complemented by the sternness and intense stillness of Nicholas Burt as Javert. He needs to be, and was, entirely credible in “Stars” and the suicide song, the latter summing up the extraordinary impact Valjean has had on him and his life-long sense of certainty.
Sophia Thompson made the most of her critical, if brief, role as Fantine. Her death scene was especially affecting. Zac Seeley and Issy Darwent were well matched as Marius and Cosette, and Issie Mennillo was strong as Eponine. Leading the youthful, naive revolutionaries was the remarkable Will Petterson as Enjolras. His singing and presence were stirring.
The Thenadiers, rogues though they are, provide necessary comic relief in an otherwise very serious piece of theatre. Jim Martin and Laura Williams are delightful in the roles, especially Laura who enlivened every one of her scenes with loads of attitude and splendid comic style and timing.
The ensemble was strong, tuneful and provided reliable characterisation for their many scenes, and the orchestra gave the essential musical support and confidence to the on-stage performers.
The set and staging were another highlight among many in this musical. The sophisticated projections on both levels of the stage made the changes to scenes and moods smooth, effective and, by nature of their technology, speedy. That’s so important in what is, even in the School Edition adaptation, a lengthy piece of musical theatre.
In all, Director Linda Williams, MD Antony Hubmayer and Choreographer Nina Richards have devised and produced a well-paced, energetic and moving production of Les Miserables. It’s well worth seeing.