Friday, July 19

Les Misérables: School Edition – Hyde Festival Theatre

It’s not very often, if ever, that I am left speechless by a performance, but this was one such occasion. I found myself so enthralled by what was happening on the stage that I forgot that I was actually meant to be reviewing the show, in fact I got to the end of Act 1 and discovered that I hadn’t written anything on my notes, so I will have to write this review purely from memory.

I’ve had to edit my review and have left out the synopsis which I had originally included. For those few of you who don’t know the story of Les Miserables, all I can suggest is that Google is a wonderful thing!

Anyway, back to the show. The first solo of the performance was taken by Harry O’Connor as the Bishop of Digne who set the standard for the rest of the performers to follow, a good opening and great vocals. Probably the first of the famous songs in the show was Fantine’s tour-de-force of “I dreamed a dream”. This was brilliantly executed by Olivia Small in this role and I don’t think she realises how good she actually is. Her performance was up there with the likes of Ruthie Henshall and Katie Hall, and she struck me as like a young Lea Salonga, who for me is one of the best in the world, an excellent performance by Olivia.

In the meantime, the policeman Javert (another excellent performance by Daniel Eccles) continued his pursuit of Valjean (played by Ben Hadfield) throughout the course of the show. We are then introduced to the evil couple the Thernardiers, played brilliant with such humour and panache by Reuben Rider and the superb Olivia Williams, who lit up the stage whenever they appeared, can’t believe they were both only mid-teens!

Before I forget, I must mention the contribution of the 2 younger members of the cast, Scarlett Bailey, nine, as the young Cossette singing “Castle on a cloud” and the unbelievable eight-year-old Brodie Robson as Gavroche who’s cheeky demeanour enchanted the whole audience.

The role of the older Cossette was played by Lucy Donoghue, who had the most exquisite voice I have heard in years and from one so young! Her performance of “In my life” and “A heart full of love” gave me the chills! How she reached some of those notes was nothing short of incredible. It is probably appropriate here to highlight the contributions made by other stars of the show; Eleni James as Eponine, who’s song of unrequited love, “On my own” and duet with Marius “A little fall of rain” as well as the superb “In my life” were amazing performances. Toby Fullman as Marius not only sang well but acted out his part to perfection.

I can only apologise to those cast members who I have not had room to name individually. There was not a weak performance throughout the whole show, no mistakes at all, and considering this was the School Edition of the show, there was very little difference from the full production.

Credit must also go to those people who were not on the stage but without whose contribution the show would not have been what it was particularly Mike McCaw’s direction; Paul Lawton’s musical direction; John Redfern and Gary Jones as sound and lighting engineers respectively, plus all the other back-stage workers who sometimes don’t get the credit their efforts deserve.

The show continues until this Saturday 20th April and there are very few tickets remaining. I was so impressed with this show that I have booked to see it again later in the week. I cannot give this version of the show anything other than 5 stars (If I could give more, I would do!) as I can honestly say it is one of the best shows I have ever seen in my life.

Reviewer: David S Clarke

Reviewed: 16th April 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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