When I went: 2 March 2015 and 29 July 2016
Location: Queen’s Theatre, London
Performers: 2015: Peter Lockyer (Valjean), Rachelle Ann Go (Fantine), Carrie Hope Fletcher (Eponine); 2016: Peter Lockyer (Valjean), Jeremy Secomb (Javert), Rachelle Ann Go (Fantine), David Langham (Thernardier), Katy Secombe (Madame Thernadier), Zoe Doano (Cosette), Chris Cowley (Enjolras), Craig Mather (Marius), Hollie O’Donoghue (understudying Eponine)
Creative team: Claude-Michel Schonberg (music), Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer (lyrics), Trevor Nunn and John Caird (English play adaptation and directors), Victor Hugo (novel), Cameron Mackintosh (producer)
Approximate price: £67 then £125
Special points: Sung-through, emotional
Best bit: One Day More
If I could change one thing: Quieter gunshots
Les Mis is an absolute staple of musical theatre and features stirring, memorable songs, which is lucky as it is sung-through. The book nominally depicts several characters around the time of the French Revolution, with several time-jumps, but the focus on characters is key, more so than in Victor Hugo’s original novel.
The lead character of Jean Valjean is rarely offstage and is a very demanding part, but the performances of the actors in the parts of Javert and Thenardier can also make or break a performance. The female characters Fantine, Eponine and Cosette all have plenty of tragic moments and memorable songs but are firmly in supporting roles to Valjean, Javert, Thenardier and Marius, and the part of Enjolras also requires a very strong singer. All this means that the show is about a billion hours long but fortunately the songs are good enough to carry it through.
I should say that I know Les Mis inside out having played in a few performances of it several years ago. This means that I can be more critical than some when I see the show but it also means I look forward to and really appreciate all my favourite bits.
Peter Lockyer was impeccable as Valjean in both performances that I saw, and Jeremy Secomb made for an enchantingly nasty Javert in the 2016 performance. Hollie O’Donoghue, understudying the part of Eponine in the 2016 performance, was also particularly impressive, with a very clear voice. A Little Fall of Rain has long been an important song to me so I always look for a good Eponine. David Langham was on point as Thernardier, a part that sometimes can be overdone – he knew when to hold back enough to let one of the only sources of comedy in this musical shine through.