The West

Theatre Review: Les Miserables
Brendan Hanson in Les Miserables at the Regal Theatre. Picture: Andrea Evans.

Les Miserables

Regal Theatre

There is a confidence and professionalism about this latest local production of Les Miserables that makes its interpretation of the French epic of redemption and revolution easy to like.

Led by Brendan Hanson, a professional actor with a fine singing voice as Jean Valjean, and several veterans of the independent theatre scene, the cast and pit orchestra captures the spirit of the Alain Boublil/Claude-Michel Schonberg story and score with panache and an engaging sense of style.

Les Miserables is usually a daunting task for theatre companies without large resources. But veteran director John Milson and music director Ian Westrip have dipped boldly into a deep pool of talent in Perth to more than match it with some of those much-vaunted productions we have seen over the past 20 years.

It doesn't seem to matter that the spectacular sets of those blockbuster productions are missing from the Regal Theatre. There is some minimalist set design, and a few of the essential props such as chairs and tables as well as a barricade from which the student revolutionaries mount their defence of freedom in the streets.

Mostly though, the actors move seamlessly on a simple stage design, creating the character and action with their body movements, costumes and voices.

The Schonberg score is one of the most tuneful in music theatre and there is scarcely a weak vocal link in the big cast of voices which range from young boys, such as Gavroche (Little People) to the young women Eponine and Cosette, the tragic Fantine and the male characters Jean Valjean, Insp. Javert and Marius, the revolutionary who falls in love with Cosette, the ward of Jean Valjean.

What is pleasing is the clarity of diction of the singers. Everyone has an interesting story to tell and their narrative is easy to follow as they pitch their voices to the emotion of each scene. It's all very stirring stuff, with tragedy around the corner for the main characters. But the human spirit shines despite the many adversities - timeless in its emotional depths and deeply satisfying to witness.

With productions like this, it's no wonder Les Mis continues to draw an audience around the world since its London debut in 1985.

Les Miserables ends on Saturday.

The West Australian

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