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Les Misérables

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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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.


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