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Eponines_Hat

My ridiculously long review for Les Mis, Cardiff

My view on re-makes has always been: if you can’t improve upon the original then you should leave it well alone. After seeing the “25th Anniversary Edition” of Les Miserables yesterday I must say that this idea still holds.

You see, the “new” Les Mis feels very much like a Hollywood remake of a classic film. Cammack has clearly thrown a load of cash at this new production – but does it add anything new to the show? Does provide any real improvements? Sadly, the answer is no. In fact, what I saw yesterday is a show that is in many, many ways inferior to the Les Mis which still packs out the Queens Theatre eight times a week.

There are actually a lot more changes to the show than I expected. I guess I thought that the show would be kind of the equivalent of a cast change – some new things which work well; some I didn’t like; but overall the same quality of experience. But what I found was a show with so many changes that it didn’t really feel like Les Mis much at all.

Most obviously there are the sets. For something that is described in the program as “scaled down” - these sets are massive. Not only are there the projections on the rear wall, but huge gates, buildings and street sets that slide on and off the stage. Some of the sets I thought worked well – ATEOTD sets the factory scene rather well, with all the ladies sitting at work benches in an assembly line – but to be honest, most of the sets just felt too ‘busy’, filling the stage with a clutter of colour and people. I never appreciated how important the simple sets of Les Mis are to the show’s success. It seems that because there is so much going on in terms of plot development, you need the simplicity of the original sets to balance it out. With all the new sets, what you end up with is a sensory overload; never really knowing where to look and just feeling quite confused about what is happening and where it is. As mentioned by someone earlier, the lack of dates and locations adds to the confusion. I can’t imagine what it would be like for people seeing the show for the first time. I felt confused about what was happening and I know the storyline by heart!

Some of the new props and costumes seemed to work well – I really liked the way that they have used real flame torches in various scenes (like The Bishop) and the fact that Javert goes after JVJ with a chain in the Confrontation was pretty cool! The costumes did seem to be high quality and were fine…. except for the wigs. Whoever did the wigs needs to be fired. Fantine’s hair is this weird ashy blonde (no where near the ‘gold’ Hugo describes) and is just really long and limp. It looks awful. Also, Javert’s wig is sadly now just a collar-length, black, greasy –looking mess. That really irritated me because I can only see Javert looking 100% immaculate in the line of duty. And poor, poor Jon. OK, they get points for making Enjolras blonde… but that wig is a cross between Hansel from Zoolander and a Cocker Spaniel’s ears. Jon is a very attractive man, but he has been made to look ridiculous rather than godlike with that hideous thing on his head!

Which leads me to casting. On the whole, casting seems to be a mix of very strong performers; talented actors who have been miscast; actors who can sing but not act; and some who cant seem to do much of either.

JOJ, Earl and Katie were, as you would expect, very strong in their roles. It was my first time seeing JOJ and he was a very impressive JVJ – but to be honest I didn’t find him particularly more impressive than Shannon or Williams. In fact, I thought Williams’ last BHH and Prologue were much more moving. Don’t get me wrong – JOJ was the right mix of pathos and complexity… I just don’t quite get why people are obsessed with his JVJ. He was great, but not exactly the second coming.

Carpenter was wonderful – but he was wonderful in London, too. He plays the role pretty much the same way he did for at Queens – and is just as impressive as he was there. Stars was amazing (and I did like how he sings it on a bridge set – nice symmetry) and the Confrontation was done perfectly by Earl and JOJ.

Katie was a lovely, sweet Cosette. The only real change in her character was that she seems to add a bit more of a pissed off edge to IML – which ends with her storming away from JVJ and slamming the door. Her voice is amazing and it was great to hear and see her again. She really does a great job in that role… and I love that Cosette is finally blonde (though she looks a lot like a Johanna from Sweeny Todd)

Gareth gave a strong performance as Marius – his voice is lovely and he was definitely not too much soppy/wet Marius. While his ECAET sounded beautiful, the blocking of this scene made me want to scream. Firstly the fact that there are no chairs/tables and he doesn’t sing the song in the ABC café just makes the lyrics a bit ridiculous.. but the worst bit was the candles. All the ‘ghosts’ come in and pick up candles and hold them – and Marius does too. I have NFI what that is meant to symbolise, but it looks ridiculously cheesy and took away from a reasonably powerful performance by Gates.

Jon… sigh… I really love Jon Robyns and think he is really talented and a lovely, sweet person.. so I kinda hate myself for what I am about to type. You see, before seeing the show, I just couldn’t imagine Jon as Enjolras – and sadly I still think he has been hideously miscast in this role. It’s not that he isn’t Thaxton. but he just seems to lack the authority and presence that the role requires. Vocally, he is just not commanding or assured enough to be the leader of a revolution. He seemed to really struggle on LiD and he seemed to lose control of some notes in The Final Battle. It made Enjolras seem a little nutty and bloody-thirsty – when he needs to be calm and in control the whole time. Jon also seems to lack the physical presence and domination of this enigmatic leader. This is not all his fault - the busy-ness of the sets and the blocking of the scenes (esp ABC Café and the Barricade scenes) means that most of the time Jon ends up lost in the action. Also, his acting and vocals seem to be at 100% G.I-jloras all the time – which results in the role lacking the light and shade, intensity and complexity of some of the better Enjolrati The combined effect is of an Enjolras that is not very memorable – and who leaves you wondering why he is the leader at all. (R actually seems a better choice in this show. He was very enigmatic and stole the few scenes he was in! Oh, and there was a bit of E/R! including a big, long hug off to the side of the stage which lasted a whole chorus of DWM) I feel bad saying all this - I know Jon has been only playing it for a few weeks – and he seems to be trying really hard to nail the character (and he does seem to “get” what Enjolras is about) so I think he will improve. It will be good to see him play the role again in Paris. I am sure he will have grown into it more by then.

Ah, and then there is the “other half of the cast.” Eponine was not as awful as I had thought she would be … she was worse! Within about 3 minutes of her being on stage, I wanted her to hurry up and climb the barricade and get shot, so I didn’t have to be frustrated by her presence! Rosalind can sing alright – she has a lovely and strong voice – but she seems to make no effort to bring this character to life. There is no hint in the way that she acts that she loves Marius (she doesn’t even look at him while singing ALFOR) and she plays the role in a cocky way that is just irritating. The combination of vulnerability and strength (IMO) is what people like about this character – but there is none of that or Hugo’s pathetically tragic character here. This Eponine almost seems to be looking at the audience to get a laugh in (god knows how or why. Perhaps this is how she flirts with Marius???) Rather than OMO being the moment the audience really feels for Eponine before she dies, Rosalind plays it like she is in a Mary J Blige video – doing a weird hip-hop sway from side to side as her only movement in the song. There is no emotion at all in the song– not even when she says “I love him.” (Interestingly, her costume is a direct copy of the London show for both Act 1 and Act 2 – the only change being the addition of ridiculous 1980s style fingerless gloves.) I could go on here but – really – it was just awful. All of it.

Similarly terrible was Fantine. I think I got the understudy – Rebecca McKinnis??? – which makes her performance slightly excusable – but as there was no announcement, I am not really sure who I was watching! Whoever played the role seemed to have no idea about Fantine. To start with, she seemed to flirt with the factory foreman!?!?! and generally came across and flirty, naïve and generally silly throughout. There was no real sense of tragedy or degradation in her demise as a whore and she never actually seems to be sick (let along dying!) – even in her death scene she was completely animated until she suddenly dropped dead. Fantine is a really hard character to get the audience to feel for – and I am afraid that this could only be described as an epic fail. It made me really miss Natalie Day’s performance as this character – I cant wait to see her again. She really is amazing.

But the most disappointing performance went to Thenardier. Not only did it sound like he couldn’t sing at all (I can only hope he was ill!) but he seemed to make no effort at characterisation at all! In MOTH he just stood there and “sang” his lines – with no attempt to show the “two faced” nature the character normally has in the show. The only good thing was that the audience didn’t love the Thenardiers as much as they do in London – the panto-esque role of these characters always bugged me anyway.

Sadly, I was also a bit underwhelmed by the ensemble. The Bishop didn’t hold his notes for long enough (though this is probably new direction) and the whores came across as almost “panto-style” whores. When they were talking Fantine into joining them, it sounded like they really think life is great when you sell yourself for a living. There was definitely none of the rough, hard-edge to the whores that your see in the London show. The Amis seemed stronger – although I really didn’t like the way that all the students shouted out in pain when they get killed in the final battle. I know it is more realistic and everything, but somehow the gravitas of the scene seemed ruined by all the “oww! Oww! That bullet really hurt!” (On that note, I thought the new deadjolras worked ok – it looks like the soldiers have been piling up all the bodies in a cart – but the cart needs to be closer to the front of the stage or rotated so you can see Jon’s face. Oh, and the sobbing woman seemed to make her way to Cardiff for the death of Gavroche, too. Sigh.)

Interestingly, given all the changes to the show, a lot of the original blocking has been kept in (the head turning at the end of R&B; the snaked marching off the stage in DYHTPS; Marius/Eponine in ALFOR) I found this quite interesting – and made me wonder why some things were kept in the show, and others weren’t. To be honest, most of the changes felt quite tokenistic and didn’t really add new perspective on the show or the characters. Yes, the new Les Miserables has all the bells and whistles of a 21st Century show – but lacks any real heart.

All in all, I left the show feeling disappointed and worried. I expected to at least like – if not love – the show (hence trekking all the way to Cardiff!) The fact that it feels so far removed from the classic production makes me worry that the show we all love will eventually be replaced on the West End by this new “improved” version. Cammack should learn from the lessons of “Psycho” “Planet of the Apes” and other ‘updated’ versions of classics. A revamped version might earn you a bucket of cash and new fans in the short term, but it will be pretty quickly forgotten.



(On a side note…. the highlight of my day was sitting three rows behind Antony Hansen and Dylan Williams. I really wanted to go up and ask them what they thought of the show – but figured it would be the last thing they’d want on their day off so I wimped out!)
Eppie-Sue

Thank you so, so much for this review. I don't really know what to write except that I have been fearing most of this and I don't even really know if I want to see the tour... it sounds interesting, but not... amazing. Gosh.

Sad
l'ivrogne transfiguré

I must admit, it sounds like I feared it would be. Underwhelming.
I mean, I'm sure I'll probably enjoy it well enough, but I'll probably spend the whole show worrying about what will happen to London and so on. I'm absolutely dreading Eponine - I mean, some people criticise Nancy Sullivan for being too modern and poppy!
It's great to hear the view of someone who knows the original production well, though, so thanks!
KatyRoseLand

Thank you so much for writing this, it was really interesting!!
Is Marius just at home for ECAET then?
And... umm... eww about Javert's wig. It's hard to see it properly in the production shot of him, but it sounds horrible.
realitybites

Well, you've said it all - (most of it) I couldn't agree with your review more .It was all too tiring to watch,lots of set move, people crossing and shadows flickering on the walls - I couldn't see the story anymore.
It is up to the producer what he does with his show and the tour must be making him money but it would be a great piece of theatre history lost if he ever overwrote the current, 25 year long production and in the past he has shown more repspect for good theatre than to do that. Hopefully both versions can co-exist with more people being able to see the tour as it is cheaper to move and make a trip to London to see the classic! Applause
Eppie-Sue

Re: My ridiculously long review for Les Mis, Cardiff

Eponines_Hat wrote:
Most obviously there are the sets. For something that is described in the program as “scaled down” - these sets are massive. Not only are there the projections on the rear wall, but huge gates, buildings and street sets that slide on and off the stage. Some of the sets I thought worked well – ATEOTD sets the factory scene rather well, with all the ladies sitting at work benches in an assembly line – but to be honest, most of the sets just felt too ‘busy’, filling the stage with a clutter of colour and people. I never appreciated how important the simple sets of Les Mis are to the show’s success. It seems that because there is so much going on in terms of plot development, you need the simplicity of the original sets to balance it out. With all the new sets, what you end up with is a sensory overload; never really knowing where to look and just feeling quite confused about what is happening and where it is.

I had to quote this, because, re-reading it, this point stuck with me the most. You get miscast actors in every production, that can't be helped, but this is what makes me cling to the London production so much. I don't know why, but it was just recently, last week, when I noticed how powerful the scenes are, even without props, without a clear setting, without much scenerey. A gate and a bench for Rue Plumet, a dark, almost empty stage for most of the solos, the revolve making the scenes flow, the only moments with a big set being the barricade scenes, and them working perfectly as long as they have the direction this magnitute requires.
I love it.
Madeleine

Re: My ridiculously long review for Les Mis, Cardiff

Thank you so much for writing all that!

It all sounds very interesting. I now have a ticket for Salford in August and I'm still hoping to love it. We'll see.


Eponines_Hat wrote:
All the ‘ghosts’ come in and pick up candles and hold them – and Marius does too. I have NFI what that is meant to symbolise, but it looks ridiculously cheesy and took away from a reasonably powerful performance by Gates.


Does this remind anybody else of Blacklick Valley's Epilogue?! Laughing
That can't be a good sign...
MizzieFan

thank you for your review! The last hopes I had for this production are ... Gone. Ah.

what about orchestration? how did you like it?
RunawayMouth

Thankyou

I enjoyed the in depth review whilst I didn't agree with a lot of it, a lot of interesting views.
[/quote]Gareth gave a strong performance as Marius – his voice is lovely and he was definitely not too much soppy/wet Marius. While his ECAET sounded beautiful, the blocking of this scene made me want to scream. Firstly the fact that there are no chairs/tables and he doesn’t sing the song in the ABC café just makes the lyrics a bit ridiculous.. but the worst bit was the candles. All the ‘ghosts’ come in and pick up candles and hold them – and Marius does too. I have NFI what that is meant to symbolise, but it looks ridiculously cheesy and took away from a reasonably powerful performance by Gates.
Quote:

I went to see the show just after it opened in Cardiff , and I thought the women laid votive type candles down for the men in 'Turning', which they then collected in ECAET but it may have changed.


Quique

I commend their efforts in taking an aging show and 'spicing it up.' But I still say they really didn't need to. Razz I'd be totally "Wow, sounds interesting" if this weren't an official Cammack production but, meh. All I know is he better not touch the WE version, grr, grr, grr. Now THAT is a holy relic!! Twisted Evil

Very interesting review! The best I've read so far because you can totally tell it's completely honest and not by someone who went in already leaning toward one mindset. The details on the wigs and the "Ow! Ahh!" at the barricades made me LOL. Laughing

I have never seen JOJ as Valjean but based off of the stuff I've been exposed to, I've always gotten the impression he's overrated. I never say anything because I can't pass final judgement until I see him, but in the meantime, I too think he's an amazing singer who's been pimped far too much and too enthusiastically that he'd have to literally blow one away to meet the expectation. I have a feeling my opinion would be similar to the one expressed in the review after witnessing his live performance--very good, but not anything to write home about. But we'll see. I do know I love the man's voice though. I doubt that'll ever change.

In another review, someone mentioned something about searchlights in the final battle. How was that?

And I suddenly feel like seeing Nancy as Eponine. Like, badly.
aquirkofmatter

I pretty much agree with everything you've said, you've just verbalised it far better than I ever could Very Happy And I was exactly the same, heard all the hype about JOJ (even from my best friend) but not encountered it personally - he has a beautiful voice and I got chills during BHH, but all-round I honestly prefer David Shannon or Jonathan Williams

(You had Rebecca McKinnis as Fantine? I doubt it was her, because she's the 2nd u/s Mme T, but if you did then I'm so sorry for you. She's one of the worst actresses/singers I've ever seen on the West End stage, if not the worst. She was an absolutely awful Killer Queen [u/s, thank goodness!] when I saw We Will Rock You. I can't imagine her as Fantine in the slightest. Maybe it was Laura Tebbutt?)
l'ivrogne transfiguré

Re: My ridiculously long review for Les Mis, Cardiff

Eppie-Sue wrote:
Eponines_Hat wrote:
Most obviously there are the sets. For something that is described in the program as “scaled down” - these sets are massive. Not only are there the projections on the rear wall, but huge gates, buildings and street sets that slide on and off the stage. Some of the sets I thought worked well – ATEOTD sets the factory scene rather well, with all the ladies sitting at work benches in an assembly line – but to be honest, most of the sets just felt too ‘busy’, filling the stage with a clutter of colour and people. I never appreciated how important the simple sets of Les Mis are to the show’s success. It seems that because there is so much going on in terms of plot development, you need the simplicity of the original sets to balance it out. With all the new sets, what you end up with is a sensory overload; never really knowing where to look and just feeling quite confused about what is happening and where it is.

I had to quote this, because, re-reading it, this point stuck with me the most. You get miscast actors in every production, that can't be helped, but this is what makes me cling to the London production so much. I don't know why, but it was just recently, last week, when I noticed how powerful the scenes are, even without props, without a clear setting, without much scenerey. A gate and a bench for Rue Plumet, a dark, almost empty stage for most of the solos, the revolve making the scenes flow, the only moments with a big set being the barricade scenes, and them working perfectly as long as they have the direction this magnitute requires.
I love it.


I think the biggest problem with these sorts of sets is that the imagination can do a much better job. You will never be able to recreate Paris, for instance, on stage, and any attempts to do so will always disappoint. However, the imagination will not disappoint - provided that it is given a few hints - a window projected on a wall, a gate etc - it can provide the rest.
This even applies to the projections which I think are a lovely idea and a nice way to include a bit of Hugo, but which I fear will make the set too naturalistic. A large, naturalistic set constrains what can take place, but a simple design which leaves much the imagination allows the plot space to be amazing and to convey some of its epicness.

RunawayMouth wrote:
Eponines_Hat wrote:
Gareth gave a strong performance as Marius – his voice is lovely and he was definitely not too much soppy/wet Marius. While his ECAET sounded beautiful, the blocking of this scene made me want to scream. Firstly the fact that there are no chairs/tables and he doesn’t sing the song in the ABC café just makes the lyrics a bit ridiculous.. but the worst bit was the candles. All the ‘ghosts’ come in and pick up candles and hold them – and Marius does too. I have NFI what that is meant to symbolise, but it looks ridiculously cheesy and took away from a reasonably powerful performance by Gates.


I went to see the show just after it opened in Cardiff , and I thought the women laid votive type candles down for the men in 'Turning', which they then collected in ECAET but it may have changed.


This just sounds ... cheesy? What's that meant to be about? (I will refrain from commenting on the Blacklick performance, Madeleine! Laughing)

I see this is your first post RunawayMouth - welcome!
Very Happy
Quique

Yeah, when I go to the movies I want to see realistic settings and I want it to convince me, at least for the moment, that it's really taking place where it's meant to take place.

Part of theatre to me is imagination. That's what makes musical theatre so magical! If I'm spoon fed every locale, then it's like watching a live action film. Les Mis not only manages to cleverly suggest most all of its locales, it also manages to set a beautiful stage picture that is unforgettable, sometimes even symbolic for many of the scenes.

But it's a personal preference, really. I will always prefer the WE version. I'm not one to think less = better and more = bad. That's bull. I hate it when people suggest this. But in the case of Les Mis, it all perfectly gels together in its original production and less is more, considering the intricate plot and complexity of its characters and the weight of their emotional journeys.

Yet there is nothing small about the WE version. It pulls off the illusion of spectacle without really going over board at all. I think that's what draws me to it most--it feels like a "big deal," you know the multimillion dollar megamusical thing, yet if feels so intimate one moment, and huge the next. And even when it's HUGE, it's mostly the moment, the emotions, the music and not so much the scenery. Again, it's about balance to me and the original just feels right in that respect.
Orestes Fasting

Quique wrote:
All I know is he better not touch the WE version, grr, grr, grr. Now THAT is a holy relic!! Twisted Evil


Agreed. Almost every change made to the original production has been for the worse. (I say 'almost' because, well, I've seen pictures of some pretty unfortunate wigs. Laughing)

Quique wrote:
I have never seen JOJ as Valjean but based off of the stuff I've been exposed to, I've always gotten the impression he's overrated. I never say anything because I can't pass final judgement until I see him, but in the meantime, I too think he's an amazing singer who's been pimped far too much and too enthusiastically that he'd have to literally blow one away to meet the expectation. I have a feeling my opinion would be similar to the one expressed in the review after witnessing his live performance--very good, but not anything to write home about. But we'll see. I do know I love the man's voice though. I doubt that'll ever change.


JOJ is kind of like Thaxton in that he has a wonderful voice, he loves the show, and he can never resist the temptation to be EPIC!!!11 Not in an overacted or ALWAYS-CAPSLOCK VALJEAN way--it includes showing off his dynamic range, acting-wise as well as vocally. Sometimes I do prefer the subtler approach, and I reeeeaaally hope you get to see Jonathan Williams in London, but JOJ is a lot of fun. Like Thaxton, if you go in wondering whether he'll live up to the hype, you'll probably walk out going "He was good but not THAT good," because nobody could possibly live up to the hype. But if you don't think about the craaaazy standard that's been set, he'll blow you away.

(Also, JOJ will never be a perfect Valjean, for this reason and this reason only: he mumbles. He was the first Valjean I saw, before I was familiar with the show, and I couldn't understand half the lyrics because JOJ and enunciation are not very good friends.)

As to the tour... yeah, I'm with Quique, this sounds like it would be really interesting if it were a regional production but if it's being touted as the best Cammack can do, I am unimpressed. Especially because I've seen a production (Copenhagen) that took a literal/naturalistic approach to the sets and made it work, because they didn't try to cram too much in. It would be really sad if this much-hyped new tour, which Cammack is throwing buckets of money and attention at, failed where regional productions have succeeded.

I do think it would be interesting if they tried to ground it more in the setting, because the setting is so important in the book. One of the biggest changes Les Mis underwent in the transformation from book to musical was that the plot was more-or-less divorced from the setting and placed in an abstract universe--a dark stage, a few evocative set pieces, unspecific stylized historical costumes. It makes it more universal but loses the whole rich context Hugo worked into the story.

I do think it's possible to ground it in a specific setting without bogging it down in detail. Paris has such a distinctive look that a stone bridge, a whitewashed plaster tenement with gaping shutterless windows, a tavern sign painted on a wall, can instantly take you there. But it's more a matter of getting details right than of throwing more and more details in until the set looks impossibly busy.
operafantomet

Orestes Fasting wrote:
Especially because I've seen a production (Copenhagen) that took a literal/naturalistic approach to the sets and made it work, because they didn't try to cram too much in.


I must admit I (for the most) hated the sets in Copenhagen... When I entered the theatre I loved what I saw, because the idea of having a proscenium looking like apartment buildings, with windows being lit in the evening, worked very well. I also loved the use of the flag, with year/place or logo being visible there (it was a three-piece flag which they hoisted up during most of the show).



But halfway into the first act, the whole set thing felt very static and stale. Things were moving up and down, or back and forth, with some random minimalistic elements in the middle. Whereas it sounds good in theory, I found it sub-par in how it was executed.

There are exceptions; I loved the barricade and some minor set ideas, but for the most I hope no-one repeats that set design...
Eponines_Hat

You are all most welcome for the review - I am glad that you found it interesting! I felt like I just needed to get a few things off my chest to an audience who would appreciate what I was on about!

You see, I am not against change in general. For example, I think the West End changes to the American/Australian Avenue Q were great and made for a much better show than the original. There *are* things I liked in this new show - but they were minor changes that could easily have been slipped into the West End version of the show. (One really good one is how Bamatabois sticks his walking cane between Fantine's legs when he says "slice of your pie" - hideously awful moment, but really highlights why she is so revolted by him)

Quote:
Is Marius just at home for ECAET then?


The women come on to a street-set for "Turning." They each come in carrying a red votive candle, which they leave on the stage at the end of the song. Marius comes in and sings the song on this "street set" (which I think is meant to be on Rue Plumet) He walks around singing as the background projection returns to the ABC Cafe (a cluttered-looking wall saying Le Cafe Musain) Then the "ghosts" walk in and each pick up a candle and then turn to Marius. Marius picks up a candle, too, and ends the song with blowing the candle out (rather than having a drink. The PG-13 version???) I guess the directors thought this was easier than sorting chairs and tables without a revolve but the scene seemed less powerful than the original - I love the sadness of Marius being physically in the cafe alone (or not. I can never decide if it's a metaphor or not). The new staging also gave Gates a pretty limited scope to show his torment - I really love the way various Marii hit the table at "don't ask me" and the haunted "toast" at the end is just so poignant.


Quote:
what about orchestration? how did you like it?


OK, now I am starting to really feel like a winger, because the short answer is "no." I wasn't deeply offended by it or anything - and a lot of things are pretty much the same - but it was another case of "WHY?" The score is a classic, and when I noticed changes, they really jarred with me. There was no moment where I thought something sounded better because they changed it. In fact, there was one scene where there was some brass instrument or other (I think a trumpet) and I swear I thought a sheep had snuck into the Millennium Centre. However, I will be the first to admit I am not great with musical score and there are probably people who really like the changes. Fair call - I might change my mind upon hearing them more. I guess to me it felt like another example of change for the sake of it with no discernible improvement from it.

Quote:

In another review, someone mentioned something about searchlights in the final battle. How was that?



I also remembered this when I was watching the show and tried to really look for it. To be honest, I didn't really notice it that much - there was more of this kind of lighting than usual in the barricade scenes, but it wasn't really a big deal for me. However the signs on the way in to the theatre did warn of gun shots and flashing strobe lights....

Quote:

(You had Rebecca McKinnis as Fantine? I doubt it was her, because she's the 2nd u/s Mme T, but if you did then I'm so sorry for you. She's one of the worst actresses/singers I've ever seen on the West End stage, if not the worst. She was an absolutely awful Killer Queen [u/s, thank goodness!] when I saw We Will Rock You. I can't imagine her as Fantine in the slightest. Maybe it was Laura Tebbutt?


Ohhh... ok, that is interesting. Man, I am so annoyed with myself. You see, I only had a quick peak at the board as I left (I was some-what distracted by standing next to Antony and Dylan and debating whether to say "hi" or not...) and I thought the names were all principals (it lists actor next to role like Wicked etc do). But when I got back to the hotel and looked at the program again, I didn't recall seeing the name Madelina, but I thought I saw Rebecca somewhere on the list of principals. It definitely wasn't Laura. It would be interesting to hear what other people thought of Madelina's Fantine. Does she speak-sing the opening of IDAD? Coz that's what I got on Saturday.



Quote:
It was all too tiring to watch,lots of set move, people crossing and shadows flickering on the walls - I couldn't see the story anymore.


Quote:
I commend their efforts in taking an aging show and 'spicing it up.' But I still say they really didn't need to. Razz I'd be totally "Wow, sounds interesting" if this weren't an official Cammack production but, meh. All I know is he better not touch the WE version, grr, grr, grr. Now THAT is a holy relic!! Twisted Evil


Yes.You see, if this was just a short-run, alternative or regional show, I would still not love it, but I would appreciate the different perspective. The thing that worries me is I can't see Cammack touring his show for a year or two and then sending all these new sets and costumes to the tip. Seriously - these sets are f'king huge! The factory doors in ATEOTD are floor to ceiling on the stage and I can't imagine how many millions of £ went into paying for that. Is Cammack going to pack it all up in mothballs when the tour is done? I just can't see that happening. And that is why this new show just breaks my heart.

I hope I haven't really upset anyone who is yet to see the show. It is still worth watching and I really really hope that you enjoy the show more than I did. I really hate the idea of the thousands of people walking out of a Cammack production of Les Mis thinking "WTF was that?" and wanting the last 3 hours of their life back. It's an interesting experiment - but in my opinion, one that just didn't work.
Quique

operafantomet wrote:


That. Is. Awesome.

It's very pretty. And I adore the idea of projecting the logo onto a tricolor flag like that. But it's sad to read the rest of it didn't work out. When you say "static" do you mean it was mostly a fixed set with no movement? I'm not sure if you've seen the West End version but, with the exception of the revolve, the main layered, brick set with all the windows is static, too. But as I've mentioned before, I think that works in the WE version. It would be odd to have such an elaborate, detailed set like that constantly obscured by moving set pieces. And to me at least, it looks threatening, menacingly sitting there in the background barely lit, but you can still see it the chaotically placed shutters and wooden beams supporting the whole decaying structures. I interpret it also as symbolizing the decaying state of French society.

Eponines_Hat, thanks for the additional info. I'm glad the orchestration only bothered you a few times. I've always said that, to most people--even other die hard fans--they'd probably not notice as much as I do. And it isn't because they don't care or don't have musical ears; I notice the changes because I've come to know the orchestration very intimately (OK, that sounds gross, lol). I know it inside out and each tiny orchestral piece I know by heart. I also do not wish for people to come away disgusted by the show. It's altered, yes, but it's still Les Miserables. Unfortunately for me, those changes in the pit continue to place a huge damper on the whole thing. And it makes me utterly depressed. Crying or Very sad

operafantomet

Quique wrote:
That. Is. Awesome.

It's very pretty. And I adore the idea of projecting the logo onto a tricolor flag like that. But it's sad to read the rest of it didn't work out. When you say "static" do you mean it was mostly a fixed set with no movement? I'm not sure if you've seen the West End version but, with the exception of the revolve, the main layered, brick set with all the windows is static, too. But as I've mentioned before, I think that works in the WE version. It would be odd to have such an elaborate, detailed set like that constantly obscured by moving set pieces.

It's hard to explain without going into too much details (and this thread is after all about the anniversary tour), but to elaborate:

Yes, I've seen the West End production, and there they have the turning stage sets and the main set design. They did something similar in Copenhagen. But they also tried to make the main set move a lot, both as it were and with additions of various set pieces (not talking about the turning stage props, but at the back and sides). However, the movement consisted of stuff going up and down, or in and out, in the most blunt way. What probably was meant to be grand stuff just looked annoying and unnecessary. I'm not sure how to explain it any better without showing pictures and getting into detail. Some pics here: http://www.detnyteater.dk/forestillinger/les-miserables/show-selected-les-miserables/fotos-video/

However, the proscenium and flag part was just too funky for words. So simple, and so Les Mis looking. LOVED it!
Quique

Orestes Fasting wrote:
I do think it would be interesting if they tried to ground it more in the setting, because the setting is so important in the book. One of the biggest changes Les Mis underwent in the transformation from book to musical was that the plot was more-or-less divorced from the setting and placed in an abstract universe--a dark stage, a few evocative set pieces, unspecific stylized historical costumes. It makes it more universal but loses the whole rich context Hugo worked into the story.

I do think it's possible to ground it in a specific setting without bogging it down in detail. Paris has such a distinctive look that a stone bridge, a whitewashed plaster tenement with gaping shutterless windows, a tavern sign painted on a wall, can instantly take you there. But it's more a matter of getting details right than of throwing more and more details in until the set looks impossibly busy.


I read an article once of a regional production (can't remember exactly which one though) where the designer said that the brick set of the original production is inaccurate. And I myself have never come across photos of the real Paris looking anything like the set. I recall you saying something about how the old Paris consisted of mostly plain walls, not so much brick. I suck at French history but I do know that there was a period when France had gone to shit, basically lol, and I remember my History professor saying there was no sewage system at one point--there were these canals that would simply drain all the sewage into massive reservoirs, and in the summer time, the wind would blow the odor into the city. Iiiick, lol.

I wonder where John Napier got the inspiration for the set then. He claims it came to him during a trip to Paris with the rest of the creative team. I know it's not that significant anyway, but I've wondered since why he'd choose a style that wasn't even present during that point in the city's history.
Orestes Fasting

<digression>

Paris is an incredibly monochromatic city--white, grey, light tan. It's true that Haussmannian architecture is partly responsible for the impression of uniformity in modern Paris, and that comes after Les Mis is set, but as far as I can tell it was like that before Haussmann too. The most plentiful building materials in the area have almost always been limestone--from quarries south of the Seine that have now been turned into catacombs under most of the southern part of the city--and gypsum from Montmartre, which got used to make plaster. So you've got expensive stone buildings and cheaper plaster buildings on wooden frames, and very little brick or exposed wood. (There might've been more wooden buildings in the slums Haussmann tore up, but the remaining older buildings in Paris tend to look like this.)

And yeah, Parisian sanitation was in varying states of horrible up until Haussmann. If you're feeling masochistic, you can go look up why the quarries got turned into catacombs.

</digression>

Anyway, I liked the Copenhagen sets a lot. The transitions--big-ass set pieces being visibly wheeled out on stage--were awkward now that I think about it, but I thought the sets themselves worked wonderfully.
Quique

I knew I could count on you for details, hehe! Thanks.

I went back to the source and I was mistaken--Napier got the idea of the barricades during a trip to Paris, not inspiration for the set like I had previously stated. Ack.

I'm guessing he probably just went with something a little more obvious, despite the inaccuracy. It didn't have to be brick though. He could've conveyed a similar look and feel with plaster walls. Not that I mind though, just something I always wondered about.

Anyway, I apologize for steering this thread somewhat off-topic.

Shame on Quique!Threadjacker.

Carry on.
Orestes Fasting

The use of brick in the sets might have to do with cultural memory/associations. Something like this or this (the former resembles the Québec set for Look Down) might scream "Paris", but it doesn't necessarily scream "nineteenth century slum" to an English or American viewer. Our frame of reference is the coal-blackened brick and rotting wood of Dickensian London, and the set conjures that up nicely.

Argh, I'm contributing to the threadjacking. Somebody whack my knuckles with a ruler.
Eppie-Sue

BACK TO TOPIC.

I can't wait to go next Saturday. I'm ridiculously excited, not so much for the quality but because I want to write a really long review. And I want Les Mis flyers that don't have Baruwa and the rest of the 07 cast.
Eponines_Hat

Eppie-Sue wrote:
BACK TO TOPIC.

I can't wait to go next Saturday. I'm ridiculously excited, not so much for the quality but because I want to write a really long review. And I want Les Mis flyers that don't have Baruwa and the rest of the 07 cast.


Will be great to hear what you think. And believe it or not there are a lot of things I didn't talk about here! It will be good to hear another opinion of the cast, too. Im hoping that I just saw a bad show and that they will be better in Manchester.
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