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Soliloquy

Newbie here...

Firstly, apologies if this has been posted in the wrong area. I looked for a 'welcome' thread, but couldn't see one. Feel free to move it mods! Wink

Hello all! My name is Lee and I have lurked on this forum on-and-off for quite some time. I'm a Les Miserables fan, and have been since I first saw it as a child with my parents. I've seen it 8 times since over the years and have been fortunate enough to have seen some key cast members ... including both Frances Ruffelle and Lea Salonga as Eponine (both around 1996/97 I think, although I may be wrong). I'll admit that my cast trivia knowledge is nowhere near as impressive as some of yours!

I recently booked to see Les Mis again in the West End (the only place I think I've ever seen it) this September. I'm going to the matinee on September 4th and have booked 'premium' tickets (myself and my friend are sat in B14/15 in the Dress Circle) ... hopefully the seats are worth the money. The friend I'm taking to see it is a Les Mis 'virgin', so I wanted her to experience it with a great view.

The Original London Cast Recording is constantly on my iPod (favourite songs are 'Bring Him Home', 'One Day More', 'A Heart Full of Love', 'Finale' and anything involving Javert just in case you were wondering) and I'll often put my DVD of the 10th Anniversay Concert on if there is nothing else to watch. I think my favourite performances from that are Ruthie Henshall as Fantine and Philip Quast as Javert. Obviously everyone is exceptional though!

The last time I saw Les Miserables, I was really excited to see John Owen-Jones as Valjean ... but unfortunately he was off sick on the day we booked, so we saw the understudy. I forget his name (it might have been Peter Saul), but he was very good. Still, I admit to being bitterly disappointed that I never saw John in the role. It was during the same cast as Joanna Ampil (Fantine), who I thought was brilliant!

I'm looking forward to seeing the new cast when I go in September (although it does sound like a fantastic cast is also leaving). I'll admit that I was slightly wary of Samantha Barks and Lucie Jones taking on the roles of Eponine and Cosette respectively, but I'm only basing this on my knowledge of them through reality TV shows. I since searched Sam Barks on YouTube and saw her performing in 'Cabaret', and was pleasantly surprised, so hopefully she'll do well in Les Mis.

I've also read some negative reviews of Simon's Valjean on this forum, but I'm hoping I'm not disappointed. To be honest, I'm so excited to be seeing it again (for the 10th time I think), that I'll probably enjoy it regardless. Very excited about seeing Norm Lewis in my favourite role!

Anyway, that's enough waffle. I should save some of this for other threads really. Nice to meet you all! Very Happy
l'ivrogne transfiguré

Hi there! It's always nice to be able to welcome new people to the forum. There isn't really a welcome area ... people tend to just pop up in whatever thread they feel like posting in. But it's nice to get to know you a bit Smile. I hope you enjoy posting here ...
mm10

Welcome Lee glad you have decided to come out of lurkdom Very Happy

Hope you enjoy the show in September and tell us all what you think
Soliloquy

Hi guys! Thanks for welcoming me.

Yeah, really hope I enjoy the show in September (although it's kinda' impossible not to, isn't it?). Have you all seen it with Simon Bowman? He seems to have received very mixed reviews!
mm10

Soliloquy wrote:

Have you all seen it with Simon Bowman? He seems to have received very mixed reviews!

I am the Simon Bowman fan here (the one and only – or at least that’s how it feels most of the time Laughing ) I saw him first as Valjean in 2004 and then a few times in this current run. Most of the criticism here is on his interpretation of Valjean but he always gets a great reception from the audience so don’t be too put off by what everyone says – go with an open mind and I hope you enjoy it!
Soliloquy

Oh good! It's nice to hear something positive about his Valjean. It's silly, but as I'm introducing the show to a friend, I really want it to be at its very best. To be honest, seeing as though she has no basis for comparison, I'm sure she'd love it regardless. I can't wait! I'm really looking forward to having such great seats too Smile
Orestes Fasting

Soliloquy wrote:
Hi guys! Thanks for welcoming me.

Yeah, really hope I enjoy the show in September (although it's kinda' impossible not to, isn't it?). Have you all seen it with Simon Bowman? He seems to have received very mixed reviews!


I've seen Bowman's Valjean (although only once or twice--somehow whenever I go to London it magically means that Jonathan Williams will be on as Valjean!). I find his acting mostly inoffensive as long as you don't pay a whole lot of attention to it, it's more his voice that's the problem. Upper register completely unsupported, sounds very odd at times.

Pity you missed JOJ, he's phenomenal. I just got back from seeing him as Valjean tonight. He's one of the rare cases where, even if you get a really good understudy, you're still missing out. And there are very few actors who could cause me to say that--even Lea Salonga as Fantine had understudies who were just as good as she was.
Eppie-Sue

I really don't want this to make this all about Bowman, but I disagree, mainly because I've seen him a LOT more than just once or twice and am not a fan at all, mainly because he's everything Valjean shouldn't be. That said, I'm sure that you can enjoy his performance - if you're not bothered by grand gestures, over-enunciation, sudden changes in how he uses his voice in different registers and simply bad overacting at times, and I'm convinced that your friend will be fine. People almost always end up liking their first Valjean. And he does get a good response, just like every other Valjean I've seen.
Maybe I'm just weird, though, considering I thought JOJ was not very convincing as Valjean, or at least not so outstanding that his performance touched me in any way: I either got too much struggle or no struggle for Valjean at all from him - but I'm clearly in the minority when it comes to that.
Orestes Fasting

If you hate Bowman's Valjean for overacting and playing Superman Valjean, I'm not surprised you don't like JOJ. JOJ's Valjean is an epic, larger-than-life, mythic figure--the difference between him and Bowman is that he manages to pull it off. But if you're already sensitive to those things from having seen Bowman too many times, I can see where JOJ's Valjean might bother you. When you see something abused too many times, it can be hard to appreciate it when it's used effectively.

There are some incredibly random things that set my teeth on edge from having seen certain people too often. Like Alexander Gemignani acting like an autistic five-year-old as Valjean, which I'm sure to many people was just a WTF-y aspect of an otherwise good performance, but after sitting through it a few dozen times... tonight I noticed Gareth Gates rocking back and forth at the beginning of Every Day, and it took me a couple seconds to realize why it was pissing me off so much. In retrospect it was an okay acting choice to show that Marius is still going through some serious trauma, but all I could think of at the time was "OH GOD KNOCK IT OFF."
Eppie-Sue

Orestes Fasting wrote:
If you hate Bowman's Valjean for overacting and playing Superman Valjean, I'm not surprised you don't like JOJ. JOJ's Valjean is an epic, larger-than-life, mythic figure--the difference between him and Bowman is that he manages to pull it off. But if you're already sensitive to those things from having seen Bowman too many times, I can see where JOJ's Valjean might bother you.

I suppose it was partly due to that - I just didn't want a Valjean who, to me, seemed so very much in charge and so confident. I do love the humbleness in the character, and while I'm sure JOJ doesn't play him as Superman à la Simon "I AM THE HERO. WATCH ME GO." Bowman, it was the sole fact that he was closer to Bowman than to, say, Shannon. Overall, I'm not sure what it was, I remember leaving with thinking that he hadn't shown me anything I hadn't seen before or done anything with the character that showed me some incredible insight... I didn't think he was bad, really, I wasn't even annoyed or bothered. I just didn't feel for Valjean at all... which is, I have to admit, something that can be said about my general attitude towards the character (in the musical!) before seeing the London production on stage, actually. And it's probably better than despising him (= the role. Not the actor!).
MizH

Re: Newbie here...

Welcome to the forum!

Soliloquy wrote:

I recently booked to see Les Mis again in the West End (the only place I think I've ever seen it) this September. I'm going to the matinee on September 4th and have booked 'premium' tickets (myself and my friend are sat in B14/15 in the Dress Circle) ... hopefully the seats are worth the money. The friend I'm taking to see it is a Les Mis 'virgin', so I wanted her to experience it with a great view.


That should be a perfect view. I've sat in that row before, but I don't remember the seat number. It's a nice distance from the stage, close enough to see facial expressions, but far enough away to get a good overall view. If you're seeing Les Mis for the first time, I think the dress circle is the best place to sit.

Quote:
The last time I saw Les Miserables, I was really excited to see John Owen-Jones as Valjean ... but unfortunately he was off sick on the day we booked, so we saw the understudy. I forget his name (it might have been Peter Saul), but he was very good. Still, I admit to being bitterly disappointed that I never saw John in the role. It was during the same cast as Joanna Ampil (Fantine), who I thought was brilliant!


Shame you missed John Owen Jones, I adore his portrayal and his voice. I've been lucky enough to see him on the tour and twice in the West End. I thought Joanna Ampil was brilliant too. I still miss her as Fantine, she's my favourite in the role. I really like Rebecca Seale, who plays Fantine at the moment. She's staying on, so you'll probably see her.

Quote:
Yeah, really hope I enjoy the show in September (although it's kinda' impossible not to, isn't it?). Have you all seen it with Simon Bowman? He seems to have received very mixed reviews!


After reading quite negative reviews about him, I was expecting to hate him, but I thought he was very good.
Soliloquy

Thanks for all your responses. It'll be interesting to see what I think of Bowman when I see him in September. Although, there's always the chance that I'll see the understudy of course...

Yeah, I expect the view will be great from row B. We're centre stage too, so it should be pretty impressive. Can't wait!

Rebecca Seale looks very good from what I've seen of her online. How about the other existing cast members? Obviously we're all yet to know what Sam Barks and Lucie Jones will be like in the roles!
Eppie-Sue

Soliloquy wrote:
Rebecca Seale looks very good from what I've seen of her online. How about the other existing cast members? Obviously we're all yet to know what Sam Barks and Lucie Jones will be like in the roles!

Well, as you said, you're getting a new Eponine, a new Cosette, and kind of also a new Enjolras, because Killian Donnelly is taking over from David Thaxton, and he's been 2nd u/s this year, going on four times. He's really, really good, has got one of the best voices in this cast and will undoubtedly work extremely well with the ensemble, considering he's been there for two years already (and most of the male ensemble are staying). Right now, David is the performer of the cast where I'd say (to echo Orestes) that even if you get the incredibly good understudy, you're still missing out, but I have absolutely no doubts that Killian will be great in the role, especially once he gets to work with it, he's a very talented performer and has understudied Javert and Valjean this year, too and been absolutely outstanding when he got to go on.

Given that you get a full principal cast, you're also getting Norm Lewis as Javert. Now, I can't comment on him too much, but I know that he's really good, some people hail him as one of the best Javerts they've ever seen while others are a bit more rereserved but still say he's great. He is, of course, going to play Javert at the 25th Anniversary Concert, too.

The others are all performers that are staying on from this year.
There's Alistair Brammer as Marius, and that is where opinions often differ. He doesn't have the most secure voice (not that he doesn't hit the notes - he does! - it's more about it being a bit, well, wobbly) and just isn't the kind of strong, passionate romantic lead, but even people who criticise that recognise that his acting is wonderful and very suited and convincing. It will be interesting to see him with Lucie Jones, they're probably going to look very good together, as they both appear very young. I'm not quite sure as to how Samantha Barks's Eponine will work with Alistair, but that's mainly due to Nancy Sullivan (who played her for the past two years) being so secure in the part that it didn't really matter who her Marius was, it always worked flawlessly.

You've already heard about Rebecca - she is good, yes, and it feels like, vocally, she has improved since I first saw her in August. Personally, I don't think she has the most pleasant of voices, but it's appropriately strong, and her acting is good for Fantine. It really depends on how active/passive you want Fantine to be, she is definitely more on the passive side.

The Thénardiers are Martin Ball and Lorraine Bruce, and they're good. Martin Ball really seems to love playing this part, and he manages to get the balance right between the humourous element that the Thénardiers are expected to provide for the audience, and the sheer evilness of the character, making him enjoyable but not very likeable. His voice is strong enough for Thénardier, I'd say - it's not the most well-trained out there, but it's quite booming and definitely suits his character portrayal.
Lorraine Bruce is impressive as Thénardiess, which, obviously, is very much down to her appearance. She is frightening enough in her interaction with Cosette, my biggest problem is that she simply doesn't sing, he screams and shrieks. It's not that I want Mme T to have a voice like an angel, but it would be nice to have someone like, say, Jenny Galloway or the previous year's Jackie Marks, who can hold a tune when they need to while still using character voice. At times, the comedic aspect can maybe become a little OTT, but overall, she's really good.

As for the ensemble, well, if this year's is anything to go by, then you're in for a treat, as they're all very strong, very well directed, very secure and very aware of their roles. Obviously there will be a few new ones, but I'm hoping that they fit right in and fill the spots of those vital ensemble members that we're losing this week. Considering you're seeing the show in September, it should all be working very seamlessly. And you're probably going to notice that basically every voice you hear in the ensemble is good enough to play a principal role, too.
Soliloquy

Wow, thanks for all of that. You've certainly whet my appetite. I really cannot wait. I can see myself booking up to see it again as soon as September has been and gone...

Hmmm, so Rebecca plays more of a passive Fantine? I'll admit I prefer the type of portrayal given by the likes of Ruthie Henshall (defiant and strong 'til the end), but I'm open to different interpretations. As long as IDAD is strong enough, it'll work fine.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing Killian in the role. After reading lots of positive things on this forum about him, it seems he's really earned his place in the principal cast. Shame I missed David Thaxton though, if he was really that good. Enjolras is one of my favourite characters!

I am really excited about seeing Norm Lewis. As I've already said, Javert is my favourite character from the show, so it's a great priviledge to see a performer who is often deemed as one of the greatest Javerts on stage. I wonder if he is still singing the end of the suicide an octave higher (ala Valjean's Soliloquy)?
Orestes Fasting

Norm Lewis just struck me as completely miscast as Javert. Don't get me wrong, he's an amazing actor and he has an amazing voice, but he's also an incredibly nice guy and that came through too much in his Javert. There wasn't enough of a difference between the guy up on stage threatening Valjean with a nightstick and the guy giving bear hugs at the stage door at the drop of a hat. He was very clearly not the villain of the piece, which was nice, but you sometimes got the impression of a very by-the-book Good Cop assigned to track down a vigilante protagonist. Which is fun, but not the plot of Les Mis. Laughing

However, some of the Bway revival characterizations were... special... so maybe he'll be different in London.

Alistair, bless him, tries really hard. He doesn't quite have it, but you can see the effort he puts into it and how much he wants to do the role justice. He's not my favorite Marius ever, but you just can't dislike him.

I love Martin Ball and Lorraine Bruce. I am very picky about my Mme Thénardier actresses, since I was lucky enough to see both Jennifer Butt and Jenny Galloway multiple times, and they set the bar very high. But Lorraine is great--a little exaggerated and panto, yes, but in the "so awful you have to laugh" way rather than "ha ha child abuse isn't this funny." She's not underwhelming, she's not hyperactively screamy, she has the roar and the "stand there and look horrible until the nervous laughter starts" down pat. Thénardier I'm less picky about, as long as he has good timing and veers more towards sinister than comical. And Martin Ball definitely fits the bill, and has a good voice besides.
Eppie-Sue

Soliloquy wrote:
Hmmm, so Rebecca plays more of a passive Fantine? I'll admit I prefer the type of portrayal given by the likes of Ruthie Henshall (defiant and strong 'til the end), but I'm open to different interpretations. As long as IDAD is strong enough, it'll work fine.

Oh, sorry, I didn't mean passive like that at all. I didn't mean weak-passive, I meant it more in a dignified way, actually - she's not very aggressive and active in her portrayal of Fantine in "Lovely Ladies", she doesn't scream, she doesn't sob her heart out. At times I wish she was more emotional and more active, actually, but overall, it works alright, and vocally, she manages very well especially in that scene, what with the "you let your Foreman send me away", I haven't heard many other Fantines (live and on recording) who can carry it so well.

Soliloquy wrote:
I'm very much looking forward to seeing Killian in the role. After reading lots of positive things on this forum about him, it seems he's really earned his place in the principal cast.

I forgot to add that... Yes. That is one of the many really good things about Killian taking over: He definitely deserves the spot, although it's very sad to lose him as an all-rounder in the ensemble.
Soliloquy wrote:
Shame I missed David Thaxton though, if he was really that good.

Yes, he was. Sad And at least in theory, he still is...
Soliloquy

Eppie-Sue wrote:
Soliloquy wrote:
Hmmm, so Rebecca plays more of a passive Fantine? I'll admit I prefer the type of portrayal given by the likes of Ruthie Henshall (defiant and strong 'til the end), but I'm open to different interpretations. As long as IDAD is strong enough, it'll work fine.

Oh, sorry, I didn't mean passive like that at all. I didn't mean weak-passive, I meant it more in a dignified way, actually - she's not very aggressive and active in her portrayal of Fantine in "Lovely Ladies", she doesn't scream, she doesn't sob her heart out. At times I wish she was more emotional and more active, actually, but overall, it works alright, and vocally, she manages very well especially in that scene, what with the "you let your Foreman send me away", I haven't heard many other Fantines (live and on recording) who can carry it so well.


Oh, I see! Well, that sounds absolutely fine. I don't think I'd like a Fantine who was wailing throughout the factory scenes. You can convey emotion in a far more subtle way than that ... which is why I'm slightly worried about my reaction to Simon Bowman. It doesn't sound like subtlety is his forté Wink

Still, I'm open-minded. Hurry up September!
MizH

Soliloquy wrote:
which is why I'm slightly worried about my reaction to Simon Bowman. It doesn't sound like subtlety is his forté Wink


He isn't as subtle as a some Valjeans I've seen (David Shannon or Phil Cavil for example), but he wasn't as OTT as I expected, and I enjoyed his performance. He's not my favourite Valjean, but he's not my least favourite. I saw him from the front row of the stalls (row A at the Queen's, I think.) I don't know how he would come across sitting further back.
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