Les Misérables has long been a musical sensation across the world, and Ballarat’s Lyric Theatre has just wrapped up its own powerful production of the Victor Hugo inspired classic. Performed at the newly refurbished Her Majesty’s Theatre, the cast and crew presented eleven shows between February 27 and March 8, 2020.
Opening with a scene of slavery in 19th century France, the unanimous voices of the male ensemble instantly gave me chills, setting the tone for the roughly three hours ahead. Jean Valjean, the primary character who was enslaved for stealing a loaf of bread, was brought to life by Jolan Walker who had the audience captivated through his musical monologues and his incredible range. The entirety of the production is sung, with this rule only broken once during a comical moment by Madame Thenardier, played by Maxine Montgomery.
Portrayed by Anthony Holloway, Gavroche had attitude and a singing voice to match. Reflecting the essence of his song Little People, Anthony “goes to show what little people can do!”, after captivating the audience and making us all fall in love with the street-savvy lad in front of us.
The production’s ensemble comprised of thirty-five vocalists, as well as principals, and their dedication to this production was so clear. There was little time to rest between scenes, and the entire cast held their energy until the end. Each time that the stage was filled with the full ensemble, hairs stood on end, and a quick glance of the theatre revealed that every person was glued to the incredible work of art unfolding in front of them.
The orchestra kept the show moving along smoothly, playing the iconic soundtrack with conviction. Paired with the powerful vocals, pieces such as I Dreamed a Dream, One Day More, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, and importantly, Do You Hear the People Sing? were brought to life, and mesmerised everyone in the theatre.
Striking to me were the seamless set changes. The backstage crew ought to be commended on their ability to transport the audience from one space to another with such fluidity; one moment we were at the residence of Jean Valjean, the next in the streets of Paris, and never did we get lost along the way.
The cast took us on an emotional journey, allowing us to celebrate the highs and mourn the lows with them. People all around me were scrambling for tissues throughout the second act, and between the sadness of the events on stage along with the pride of our local theatre community, I was completely moved.
I was fortunate enough to attend the final show, which was full of energy and passion from all involved. Celebrating the end of a successful run of shows, streamers were thrown from the audience during the cast’s bows, and a standing ovation was offered from the audience.
This production of Les Misérables was of an incredible quality, comparable to that of Melbourne and London. Congratulations to all involved on an emotive and creative adaptation of an historical milestone.
Reviewed by Chloe Waddell