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Moving into the Sondheim Theatre for a limited run, the barricades return to the West End


BWW Review: LES MISERABLES - THE STAGED CONCERT, Sondheim TheatreLes Misérables- The Staged Concert has had an unexpected second run after becoming a sold-out success last year.

Moving next door into the Sondheim Theatre, the show can't return in the normal capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions, but the staged concert brings the barricades back to life in a safe way.

All the cast have appeared in the show before, from tours and West End runs to the staged concert last year, so you're in incredibly safe hands right from the very start. Every performer is confident, hits each note with perfect dictation and tone, and makes this staged concert feel like a regular musical production.

In fact, during the interval, some audience members were questioning whether it was a concert because it felt like such a complete show.

Last year's staged concert was slick and deserved the high praise it received, but subtle tweaks here and there, including slight changes in delivery and tone, have made this version a stronger production than its previous run.

While the show isn't exactly known for its light-hearted moments, it's clear that Les Misérables is learning to laugh in new moments. It's an unexpected but joyful thing to witness.

From the pre-show announcement to the Thénardiers' scenes (played by Matt Lucas and Katy Secombe) to Marius (Rob Houchen) being mocked for his besotted behaviour, this scattering of humour was a new touch that brought realism and heart to scenes.

Audiences definitely need a break from doom and gloom right now, so this small touch of light humour helps to relax the less intense scenes and suggests this show is becoming open to taking itself less seriously.

Speaking of comedy, Lucas and Secombe's on-stage chemistry and comic timing with each other make scripted lines feel like funny ad-libs, so the pair always got big laughs. When they weren't singing, they were fantastic listeners; always responding in hilarious but understated ways that became mesmerising to watch.

Of course, you can't have Les Misérables without those heart-breaking power numbers, and the staged concert is no different. Michael Ball, (who's playing Javert), and John Owen-Jones (who shares the role of Jean Valjean with Alfie Boe) bring vulnerability to these complex characters, and their duets are stand-out moments in the show as a result.

Marius is often thought of as just a love-struck man, but Houchen's portrayal is more charismatic and confident. Marius is still a sensitive soul, but Houchen also brings out his loyalty and determined nature too, which is a clever way to develop this character.

The unrequited love of Éponine (played by Shan Ako) towards Marius is played with enough raw emotion that you're completely invested in her sadness, but also with sweet energy (from both actors) that highlights Marius and Éponine's loving friendship.

Carrie Hope Fletcher may only be on stage for a small section of the show as Fantine, but her powerful vocals and emotive performance command attention whenever she's present. She is a sweet Fantine, but Fletcher also brings out the fierce side of Fantine and her underestimated strength, making the character's downfall more tragic.

It really highlights the high calibre of the entire cast that the limited staging doesn't take anything away from the show; it never affects the pacing and feels almost natural in places.

This show has clearly been missed over the past nine months, with the audience's energy creating an emotional curtain call that's rarely seen so early on into a show's run.

But it's no surprise that the audience was getting swept away in the atmosphere around them; this show is so spectacular you quickly forget you're wearing a mask and in socially distanced seating.

The new rules and regulations haven't made the staged concert any less impressive or captivating, and the final number has never sounded so passionate or uplifting, as you can tell that every person on that stage is delighted to be back on stage during unprecedented times.

Les Misérables - The Staged Concert doesn't just dream the dream, it brings it to life with show-stopping performances, incredible orchestrations and an electrifying atmosphere that encompasses the whole theatre from start to finish.

Les Misérables - The Staged Concert at the Sondheim Theatre until 28 February 2021

Photo credit: Johan Persson

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