Saturday, May 25

Rebecca Ferrin comes back home as Les Mis comes to Leeds Grand

Les Misérables is a musical juggernaut smashing record after record for more three decades and now the UK tour of this epic tale of betrayal, obsession, revolution, and redemption is heading to Leeds Grand Theatre.

Rebecca Ferrin first trod the boards at the Grands as a child and how she’s coming back to her hometown theatre in an epic tale of the battle between Jean Valjean and his nemesis Javert that has played to over 130 million people worldwide.

Ferrin who trained at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts battled her way through one of the toughest auditions for any show and tells our Features Editor Paul Clarke why winning a place onstage is a dream come true.

Is this the full West End version that’s coming to Leeds?

Yes, it’s almost identical in every single aspect. We’ve had the same production team, directors, costumes, everything really to be honest. It’s literally bringing the West End on tour.

Who are you playing on this tour?

I’m in the ensemble, and cover one of the female leading roles, Cosette, so when they’re off sick, or on holiday, I go on for her.  I’ve been on quite a few times, and I’ve also got some dates in Leeds, which is really exciting to be on in my home venue.

Yes, you’ve already performed on that hallowed stage.

I had almost actually forgotten that I’d performed there with Opera North when I was a child, I think I was maybe 11. I’ve just seen so many phenomenal shows at Leeds Grand, and there’s something very exciting about going back as an adult to your home venue to what inspired you in the first place.

It seems to me that an epic show like Les Mis is the perfect fit for a historic venue like the Grand.

I think touring is really interesting because you see the show in all these different theatres, and the stage completely changes with each one. It grows and it shrinks, it becomes more intimate, or it becomes grander depending on where we are.  I’ll be really interested to see what’s that like in Leeds as it’s an old theatre, it’s a tall theatre, so some of the seats are really far away, and how that changes your acting style.

Photo: Danny Kaan

I’ve always believed that a show lives and dies by how good its ensemble is and this is sung through musical so it’s a tough ask.

It’s a pretty heavy show in terms of the ensemble. Our director always says it is truly an ensemble show, the heart of the show lies in the ensemble, carrying that story through and the line of the story. It’s a mammoth show, it’s three hours long, it’s a lot of work for the ensemble to really create the world of Les Mis.

This is now a classic show so how tough was it to win a place onstage?

I personally had auditioned for Les Mis three years in a row, always getting to finals and never quite getting the job. For this particular tour it was the same again about anywhere between 5 to 7 rounds for some people. Quite a significant amount of auditions because they have so many applicants, so to really whittle it down to who was right for the show took a while.

So how did you feel when you put on your first costume and stepped onstage as a full cast member for the very first time?

It still sometimes feels like a dream come true as I have loved this show for so many years, and there’s something about being a part of it, having that place in the history of Les Mis that will always be really special to me.  It was especially unbelievable that first night we performed but it’s been unbelievable many other nights we have performed. It’s truly a special place to be in.

Do you have a favourite song in the show?

I actually love the epilogue, the final song of the whole show, it will always be the one that kind of gets me. I think it’s beautiful, and there’s never a dry eye in the house when we sing it.

This show has set all sorts of records over the last three decades so why does it continue to sell out big venues like the Grand?

Our show has kind of freshened and modernised the previous show of Les Mis, so the set is different. The story is just so relevant, it’s about hope, love, unity and things that don’t expire just because it’s 20 years on. They are still so important and so beautiful to watch.

Do you hope as a local performer who is now in one of the biggest shows on earth that you may inspire others to follow in your footsteps?

I think that’s potentially what I’m most excited for. During Covid I obviously lost my job, all the theatres stopped, and I came up home to Yorkshire. I started teaching loads of children in a school in Harrogate and seeing their talent, seeing that love of theatre and seeing what they could be. Looking back and going all this is what I was like at 8, 10 and 16.  A lot of them are coming to see the show and I think it’s really exciting that I could be inspiring the next generation of Yorkshire actors.

Les Misérables is at Leeds Grand Theatre from 24th November to 10th December but returns only.