The Young Australian Broadway Chorus are fearless in their production choices, opening their 2019 program with a rousing turn at Les Misérables. The audience’s expectations were smashed like the June Rebellion of 1832 (minus the body count) in what was an entertaining show.
This was a collection of performance styles, set, sound and musical elements stacked and piled on, against, and, occasionally, in spite of each other – not unlike how one might build a barricade on the rue Saint-Martin. There were moments of roughness and untidiness, but rebellions are never tidy and these moments made an already excellent production only more compelling.
The exceptional quality of the show rests on the back of strong performances: Bryce Gibson gave a lovely performance as Jean Valjean, with nothing over sung or lost. Bryce navigated his character well across a wide range of ages, physicalities, and emotional states.
Nicholas Sheppard proved himself an effective nemesis to Jean Valjean in his role as Inspector Javert. While other characters have their trials, none have as difficult a trajectory to follow from start to unfortunate end as Javert, which Nicholas did brilliantly.
Rhea Brendish was marvellous as Eponine, who is troubled as much by her unrequited love for Marius as she is by the coming uprising. While the music unnecessarily threatened to overshadow her at one point, her performance of On My Own was glorious.
Also superb was Madeleine Horsey as Madame Thenardier. It would be easy to make the role a one-note cartoon, yet Madeleine imbued the character with humour, narcissism, and wit. Emily Svarnias gave a beautiful performance as Fantine. Of all the performances from the 2012 film, it’s perhaps Anne Hathaway’s that stands out the most. Thankfully, Emily makes the character her own with a delivery sparse and vulnerable, yet utterly captivating.
The show is a long one, however, at times it oddly felt rushed. A little breathing room with some of the transitions (eg: the shift from Valjean Forgiven to What Have I Done? was rapid to the point of inorganic) would have been appreciated.
Staging Les Misérables is no small undertaking. The Young Australian Broadway Chorus have done great work, which undoubtedly helps to explain their needing to add an extra show on Sunday 27 January at 1.00pm to keep up with demand. And deservedly so!
National Theatre, 20 Carlisle Street, St. Kilda
Performance: Thursday 24 January 2019 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 27 January 2019
Information and Bookings: www.lesmiz.com.au
Image: Nicholas Sheppard as Javert – photo by Kit Haselden Photography
Review: David Collins