Les Misérables is currently at Milton Keynes Theatre for an epic four-week run.
But what is Les Misérables? What drives me and so many others crazy about this musical?
I’ll try and put it into words here 👇🏻
LES MISÉRABLES or simply “Les Mis” is a musical based on a book of the same name by French novelist Victor Hugo.
There are so many names that swirl around Les Mis, Victor Hugo, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, Cameron Mackintosh, and more, but who did what?
A brief history of Les Misérables
– 1862 Les Misérables (book) by Victor Hugo gets published
– Dozens upon dozens of film, television and book adaptations of the story are made between 1862 to the present day (and more keep coming!)
– Claude-Michel Schönberg (composer) and Alain Boublil (lyricist) conceive, compose the musical version (French)
– Les Misérables opens in Paris in 1980
– Cameron Mackintosh (acclaimed theatre producer) approaches Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil to bring an English language version of Les Misérables to London which opens in 1985 with English lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. Les Miserables the musical as we know it, is born
– Opens on Broadway in 1986
– In 1987 Les Misérables gets nominated for twelve Tony Awards, winning eight including Best Musical
– Recent notable adaptions of Victor Hugo’s story is the star-studded film Les Misérables (2012) starring Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Russell Crowe, and the “non-musical” BBC mini series (2018)
– This Les Misérables is Cameron Mackintosh’s revitalised Broadway musical production which is currently on a UK Tour*.
*The first UK tour in ten years! How lucky are we in Milton Keynes to be part of it?
What’s Les Misérables about?
If you look at the emblem, you see a sketched young girl in a hat. It doesn’t really give the story away much, does it?
Mostly the picture is cropped to only showing her head and shoulders (below is the full image) but even with the full image, What do you see?
A girl from a long time ago, clearly facing extremely hard times, she’s sweeping and washing the street.
You want more story?
The plot of Les Misérables is beefy. I hasten a guess that you couldn’t write it out concisely and in its entirety without scratching your head and remembering another detail and how it slots in.
The story follows the life of Jean Valjean, in his search for redemption, love, loss and living a life out of the shadow of his condemned beginnings.
But more than that, it’s a story about a mothers sacrifice and love. About revolutionary fight and the students and people who are willing to sacrifice their lives for a better world.
It’s about questioning what is right and just.
It’s a story of young love that is beautiful, of unrequited love that we can relate to when love doesn’t quite fit into how we want it to be.
It conveys what it means to be a parent, not just flesh and blood parenting but selfless love and protection for your loved ones and their loved ones too and how it doesn’t always have to come from your immediate family.
Les Mis is all this and so much more.
Red carpet glitz and gala performance
On Friday 17th May I was kindly invited by MK Theatre and the company of Les Misérables to their gala press night performance.
The whole theatre foyer was decorated with balloons of blue, white and red, the French colours.
There was a red carpet waiting for me to mooch up and I was treated to glasses of fizz and lots of good chatter with fellow guests (hic).
There was even some celeb spotting (am looking at you CJ de Mooi 🤟🏻 Egg head legend).
I then went into door 4 and took my seat and in case you wondered, I was seated in seat J11. IT HAD A KILLER VIEW! (below)
Couldn’t have asked for a better seat and view for the whooping 3 hours (including interval) performance of Les Misérables. 👏🏻
The cast of this tour production of Les Misérables are incredible.
Easily the best thing I’ve ever seen on the stage at Milton Keynes Theatre.
It’s not the first time I’ve seen Les Mis but it’s the first time seeing this tour and this particular production which has been updated, dubbed a Les Mis for the 21st century.
This cast consisted of Fantine played by Katie Hall (above), who gave an incredible I Dreamed a Dream.
I mentioned this was an updated version of Les Misérables.
The barricade staging has been changed and I love, love, love what they have done with it. The battle sequences are intense.
Throughout the show the use of lighting and staging is WOW. Some points felt like I was looking at a film being played out in front of me, it looked that REAL and definitely not like a stage at all.
The use of cinematic backgrounds give an incredible depth and movement to some scenes (the bridge scene especially!).
The star of Les Misérables is always the man himself, Jean Valjean, played by Killian Donnelly.
Killian Donnelly is from the Westend production of Les Misérables. His voice is spine-tingling good.
Yes, he will have you spellbound with his songs like Bring him Home, but I especially melted at the heart at the cute interactions between him and Young Cosette when they first meet and he saves her from the Thénardiers (mum stuff innit). 🥰
Javert is played by Nic Greensheilds and his huge, towering stature as the want-to-do-good inspector on stage is something to see.
His rendition of Stars will bring starry tears to you. 😭
Les Misérables is packed from beginning to end with huge musical numbers that it’s famous for. Each character has their moment, their own song. But even the ensemble songs are just as powerful as the solo numbers. Def no filler in Les Mis. 3 hours packed full of the best stuff.
Marius was played by understudy Shane O’Riordan who smashed it. You were insanely good! Older Cosette was played by Bronwen Hanson (above) who captured young love perfectly.
My favourite character and songs are always from Eponine. Tegan Bannister (below). Her performance of On my Own and A Little Fall of Rain (with Marius) were so sad.
My heart always goes out to Eponine’s character because we all know what it’s like to love and not know how to handle that love not being returned to us like we wished it was.
As the music headed for the end, I was blinking back tears, tears for what I’d watched, tears for the characters, tears that the story ends there.
I only get those feelings at the end of my most favourite books or stories. Les Mis punches it from their soul right into my heart, every. single. time.
I might not be from 19th century France but I think we can we all relate to the themes in Les Mis. The struggles of redemption as we go through our lives, of love, of not being loved in the way we would wish, of wanting to change for the people we have around us and further more, the whole world, with all the battles of conscience thrown in-between. That is why we stand right there with every character on that stage. It’s intensely moving.
So, Les Misérables proves it’s not ready to step down from being one of the greatest musical spectacles of all-time.
I went and saw this production of Les Mis a second time last night, with tickets I received as a Christmas gift from my parents. Even after the amount of times I’ve seen it, it’s still a journey I want to repeat.
If you go and see it, listen out at the end of the show. You can hear the sniffs of everyone around you, you can feel the broken down emotions in the room. We felt it all, not just as an audience at a musical, but just as humans, we were in it together, in our own barricade.
We love you, Les Mis. 😭
Now what can we go out in the world and change for a better tomorrow? ❤️
Les Misérables is at Milton Keynes Theatre Tuesday 14th May 2019 – Saturday 8th June 2019.
For full transparency, tickets for Les Misérables were kindly gifted to me by the company of Les Misérables and Milton Keynes Theatre.
Wanna see it for yourself? Here’s how to get your hands on tickets! 👇🏻
Best Availability Monday to Thursday performances. Call the theatre’s dedicated Les Misérables booking line on 01908 547669 (open Monday to Saturday, 12 – 6pm) or visit: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/les-miserables/milton-keynes-theatre/. Check daily for returns and last minute ticket releases.