Les Misérables

Date 16th February 2024
Society Centrestage Productions Youth Theatre
Venue The Point Theatre Eastleigh
Type of Production Musical
Director Mike Mullen
Musical Director Ian Partridge and Rachael Thorpe
Choreographer Ashley Mullen
Written By Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schonberg based on the Victor Hugo Novel

Report

Author: Mark Allen

Quite where to start, I'm not really sure. The foyer was packed on my arrival, the noise of anticipation was palpable. I was greeted by the (as usual) excellent front of house team and introduced to their President, Colin Hearn who is as integral to CPYT as his title suggests. I took my seat in the auditorium and faced an empty stage with a Les Miserables projection on the rear set with dry ice billowing from both sides of the stage causing a very atmospheric scene. The lights dimmed, the show started. 

Immediately we knew, as an audience, that this was going to be a very special evening. The twenty one piece orchestra wonderfully led by Ian Partridge and Rachel Thorpe made such a fantastic, beautiful noise as they played the Prologue, the standard was set. 

The set itself was an open affair with flats to stage right and stage left with a town scene across the rear of the stage wirth a large door in the centre. This allowed the one hundred and ten (or so) cast good and easy access. The centre part of the stage was a revolve which the cast only saw and used for the first time two days before opening night. They coped with it very well and used it to its best extent. There were two main trucks, one for the gate and one for the barricades. Again these were well used with the revolving stage and the backstage crew seemed to get these huge trucks on and off smoothly and without any real blackout or down time. The set was complimented by very well thought out and programmed lighting and effects by the Livewire Theatrical Consultants team of five. They must have had their work cut out, this was a big show, but worth it as very effective. Add to this the sound levels, provided by Rich "Pob" Wyeth and Mark Bourne, which were always spot on, no dips and all could be heard clearly and concisely, bearing in mind that the orchestral levels were very high, this was no mean feat.

The ensamble aged from six to eighteen and there were a hundred plus had all been well rehearsed (they all wearn't on the stage at the same time!) by the production and directorial team of Mike Mullen, as Director and his wife Ashley Mullen as choreographer. They all knew where they were supposed to be, why and most importantly when. The choreography was challenging in places, however the visual effect was stunning and there never looked to be a foot out of place. The chorus singing was again of a very high standard, especially given the age gap between youngest and oldest. This is a huge testament to Ian Partridge and Rachel Thorpe who must have worked tirelessly and the hours they must have put in reflected this.

The principle line up is as strong as I have seen or come across. Yes, Les Miserables, as a show is pretty much up there as not only the best but also the most challenging to its performers. Big performances are almost demanded. This principle cast took those demands and pushed them higher than I thought achievable. Alfie Flynn's performance  as Jean Valjean was assured, confident and played with real emotion. It was completely believable. Alfie was fantastically backed up by Liv Harder as Cosette, Lily Rochard as Eponine, Abbet Bamber-Browne as Fantine and Jack Fenner as Marius. They all interacted together with confidence and ability, their diction was of a very highest quality, nothing was rushed, all the notes, high and low were met with a great deal of aplomb. There was a great relationship between Will Vokes and Emmer Hatherell as Thenardier and Madame Thenardier, this added light relief to what is a very serious piece and again the diction was very good. The relationship that grew between Jacob Schrader as Enjorlas and Coralie Havard as Gavroche was great to see, the emotion at the end after Gavroche's death was very plain to see. However, I have not mentioned Jimmi Donnelly as Javert. I have been involved in the theatre, one way or another for nearly thirty years, the last eight as the NODA representative for Southampton, Eastleigh and Winchester. In my time I have never heard a voice with such natural quality and resonance in all my time. especially given Jimmi's age This was an assured (and again confident) performance, one that rendered me speachless by the interval. "Stars" will remain with me for a long long time.

Given that there were over one hundred to cater for, the costume team, led by Nicki Moorhouse gave us a huge array of well fitting, tidy and in-keeping costumes, and like the staging, lighting, sound added magnificently to the whole effect. I can only begin to imagine the work and hours and hours of dedication by Nicki and her team. Ladies, it was more than worth it. 

As one, who generally, gets annoyed at standing ovations (almost now de rigueur) when they are not warranted, stood at the end of the show as what had been witnessed was, in short, the most extraordinarily professional youth production that I have witnessed. Everything was of the very highest quality. Diction, musicality, staging, choreography, costumes, lighting and overall direction. You would be forgiven that you were watching an amateur as against a professional production. Mike, Ashley Ian, Rachel, Nicki, Rich and the Livewire team, take a bow, you have allowed the hundred plus cast the most unique opportunity. Bravo, I am staggered by the quality of this production.