After twenty five years keeping the
heart of Alain Boubil and Claude Michel Schönberg's
epic musical beating strong in the West End, producer Cameron
Mackintosh has mounted another national tour. Yet instead of
rehashing the age-old staging, directors Laurence Connor and James
Powell have created a fresh new production: scrapping the revolve
and shoving in some video projections. Even Britain's Got Talent's
Susan Boyle is in the audience, presumably checking if Madalena
Alberto's 'I Dreamed A Dream' lives up to her 2009 cover.
With a complex plot and depressingly
high mortality rate, this show will not take you on a frivolous
flight of fancy. Adapted from Victor Hugo's 1862 novel of the same
name, we follow the ex-convict Jean Valjean as he struggles to find
redemption amongst the poverty and chaos of revolutionary France. The
timeless score includes 'One Day More', 'Do You Hear The People
Sing?' and 'On My Own'.
John Owen-Jones is apparently the
best Valjean in the show's history, but due to volcanic ash he is
sadly stuck on holiday in Egypt. Understudy Christopher Jacobson
gets a good audience reception and will no doubt grow into the
gravitas the role requires. Earl Carpenter's rich voice makes for a
marvellous Javert, Valjean's policeman nemesis. The three lead
females – Fantine (Madalena Alberto), Éponine
(Rosalind James) and Cosette (Katie Hall) – work hard to
provide a new interpretation to their roles.
I can't have been the only person
sceptical to hear Pop Idol's first runner up
Gareth Gates had been cast as heartthrob Marius. His only major
theatre credit thus far is the title role in Joseph.
However Gates's years heading up the choir of Bradford Cathedral have
evidently paid off: he delivers a revelatory performance with acting
pedigree, swiftly socking it to prejudiced critics like me.
Thwarting the cavernous Playhouse's
reputation for being an acoustical nightmare, Nic Gray and his
sound team treat us to the full glorious power of Peter White's 14
strong band and some great new orchestrations. Although impressively
and inventively staged - especially the booming battle scenes – the
21st century backdrop doesn't quite work in all its
guises. The jerky computer-generated projections in the Paris sewers
suggest that any moment Lara Croft might somersault into the fray.
But these are minor quibbles. For much
of the year Scottish audiences are subjected to rickety touring shows
peddling musical mediocrity. Here Mackintosh has assembled a
veritable melting pot of talent to create an electric night out that
will send a shiver down your spine, bring a smile to your face and a
tear to your eye.