The world’s longest-running musical, directed by Sir Trevor Nunn and John Caird in 1985, closed July 2019. The 2009 touring production, directed by James Powell and Laurence Connor, opened in its place January 2020. Amazingly, thanks to a huge cast of over thirty, and phenomenal performances across the board, this new production of the “show of shows” is just as powerful as ever.
One of the most striking features of the new production is the colour, inspired by original novelist Victor Hugo’s mostly unknown paintings. The 1985 production mainly moved in black, white and sepia: in the 2009 production, impressionistic video projections (Matt Kinley) flood the stage with colour at key moments, while brighter, more spotlit lighting (Paule Constable) picks out the coloured detail on the costumes both old (Andreane Neofitou) and new (Christine Rowland).
The 1985 twenty-piece orchestra has been cut to fourteen, but thanks to the miracle of modern-day synthesisers and sound design (Mick Potter), the epic score by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg sounds better than ever.
However, the new production is a smack in the face to its original creators, removing the iconic revolve, and portraying the Thénardiers (Gerard Carey, Josefina Gabrielle) as clowns rather than cut-throat sociopaths and child abusers. On the other hand, so much of the original direction remains, from the beautiful effect of a bright spotlight when a character dies, to the placement of original choreography and set design. Yes, this may be a Les Misérables “for the 21st century”, but still bears almost all the hallmarks of the original: Nunn and Caird may not be credited as creators here, but their creation is very much still alive on stage.
Now booking until 2 October 2022 at the Sondheim Theatre. Tickets from £10.