So…tonight was my one big theater splurge; I finally got to see Les Miserables. When I say “splurge,” I actually mean the second cheapest ticket I could possibly have gotten since I’m on a budget and didn’t really want to spend the equivalent of $100. Even if I HAD done that, though…it would totally have been worth it. 🙂
I first got interested in Les Mis after getting the soundtrack for my 16th birthday. It came and went in Seattle a handful of times over the years, but I just never got around to seeing it. I saw the 10th anniversary concert on PBS at one point and liked it, and (much more recently) the 25th anniversary concert as well. At some point, I decided that I wanted to see it in London, if I ever made it there. When I did finally go in 2009….I didn’t see it. I ended up not wanting to spend hours in a theater when I had so little time to enjoy the city. Earlier this year (or was it late last year???) I found out that the show would be coming through Seattle again this past August, and I thought that I’d finally get to see the show. Then the whole London thing happened, and it was back to my original plan: Les Mis in the West End!
There have been very few times that I’ve gone into something with high expectations and had those expectations exceeded. Tonight was one of those times. The show was absolutely, positively, the BEST thing I’ve ever seen on stage. I was enthralled the whole time. The sheer caliber of talent contained in this cast was staggering. In most of the traveling Broadway shows I’ve seen in Seattle, there always seems to be one major character who’s a bit of a weak link, and doesn’t hold up well with the rest of the cast. Not true for this show; EVERYONE was great! Even the chorus members who had a line or two of solos were fantastic.
Those of you who saw the recent 25th anniversary Les Mis concert on PBS will probably recognize Alfie Boe from his performance as Jean Valjean. He signed on awhile back to play Valjean in the West End until the latter half of November. When I first saw the concert on tv, I thought he had a good voice, but……I’ll be honest…. I was pretty indifferent otherwise. I just didn’t see as much acting or expression as I did in some of the other performers. Once I figured out that he would be in the show while I was in London, though, I thought it might be nice if I got to see him in it. Boy, am I ever glad I did! Alfie was fantastic…really, really brilliant in the role. His voice is even better live than on tv, and he didn’t just play Valjean; he WAS Valjean. Every gesture, emotion, action, etc was perfect. The way he aged as Valjean was amazing, too. Quite a bit of time passes from the beginning to the end of the musical, and the way that Alfie took Valjean from adulthood to old age was nothing short of fantastic. It wasn’t even just the makeup or the clothes; he walked older, sung older, WAS older. That kind of thing is hard to get right, but boy, did he ever. I also thought that Alfie had great chemistry with the actor playing Javert. Seriously…it was electric every time they were onstage together. I was also surprised and impressed with how athletic the role of Valjean actually is. Alfie was always running around, punching people, getting punched, lifting wagons, shooting things, and I think he carried the injured Marius around the stage for about five minutes straight. The actor playing Marius wasn’t a big guy by any means, but still….that can’t have been easy!
Like I said….everyone in the show was great, and I don’t have any major critcisms; just a few tiny ones. 🙂 There was this woman sitting two rows in front of me who thought she was Fantine, and sang along with ALL OF HER SOLOS. I really don’t want to hear “I Dreamed A Dream” from anyone other than the person singing it onstage, thank you very much. There were also a few moments when Eponine was a bit shrill, but those were few and far between. The actress more than made up for it by giving the character a lot of spirit, and by just killing “A Little Fall of Rain.” Seriously…she was AMAZING during that song. Unfortunately, Marius kind of ruined the moment with some slightly overdramatic sobbing over Eponine’s dead body. It was almost as bad as Harry Potter crying over Cedric Diggory’s body in Goblet of Fire. “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” was good, though…not as good as Michael Ball’s version (he was the original Marius), but I don’t think anyone could beat that one.
Speaking of Eponine and Marius, I had a bit of a change of heart about them tonight. Before seeing the show, I was firmly on Team Eponine. I never liked Cosette much, and I thought it was lame (and so typical of a guy) that Marius liked her better and was totally clueless that Eponine was into him. After tonight, though….I like Marius and Cosette together. He and Eponine just wouldn’t be a good fit, ultimately.
Just a quick note about safety: people kept telling me to be careful, watch out, stay safe, etc. before I left for London. It was a little annoying, even though I know they meant well. I’m not stupid, I don’t take stupid risks, and there isn’t anything bad that could happen to me here that couldn’t happen to me in Seattle. Even so, I hadn’t spent much time in the city at night, and I wasn’t sure what it would be like. It was….just like it is during the day, but darker. There were so many people still around, and lots of places in and around the theaters were still open when the show ended. I walked back to the Tube alone, and I didn’t feel unsafe for a second. So, if you ever find yourself in London and you want to experience at night, do it! I’m not saying you should take dumb risks (I purposely went to a Tube stop that was a bit further away from the theater so I could stick to busy streets and not scary dark alleys), but the chances of something bad happening to you with so many people around are pretty slim.
Even if I HAD planned to see another show while I was here, I’d be cancelling my plans for that right about now. I don’t think anything could possibly match tonight. Great show, great evening, and I’m excited to see the movie version next year!
(One final note: it was nice to look up ticket prices for Les Mis and actually pay that price rather than having tons of fees, taxes and surcharges added on. I hate that they do that in the States; the most I ever had added on in extra fees was 1/3 the original price of the ticket, which is ridiculous.)