REVIEW: Les Misérables (Auckland Music Theatre)

Review by Sharu Delilkan and Tim Booth

C’est Magnifique

Les Misérables at the Civic is nothing short of spectacular.

So often Kiwi audiences flock to touring overseas shows, based on the premise that “it’s come from New York, London or Sydney –  it must be amazing”. Consequently, it’s thrilling and heartening to see Boublil and Schönberg’s Les Misérables done with such flair, panache and extravagance on our home turf by a pro-am, Kiwi produced collaboration of Auckland Music Theatre (AMT) and Amici Trust (190 volunteers are involved in bringing the production to the stage).  In addition, NZ Musical Theatre Consortium’s glorious staging dazzles us throughout with its captivating scenery complementing this breath taking production that coincides with AMT’s Centenary.

Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption – a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit.  

Featuring one of the greatest scores of all time, with thrilling and beloved familiar songs including I Dreamed A Dream, On My Own, One Day More and Do You Hear The People Sing, it’s no surprise that Les Misérables has become one of the most celebrated musicals in theatrical history.

Our proudly NZ cast is faultless and the potentially daunting 3-hour duration of the show is perfectly paced keeping us entranced throughout.  Hayden Tee (Javert) is absolutely mesmerising from the minute he hits his first note, epitomising his menacing character’s institutional fanaticism. Emily Robinson (Éponine) and Will Martin (Marius) distinguish themselves with their melodious renditions of On My Own and Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, respectively, as well as their duet A Little Fall of Rain.  Another standout is Hamish McGregor’s fiendishly fabulous Monsieur Thénardier, bringing the house down with Master of the House while showcasing his magnificent vocal range.  His comic grotesquery is befitting of a dastardly exploitative and duplicitous innkeeper of the era.  The chorus also deserves special mention as they are in perfect voice, complementing the strong leads on stage.

Grant Meese’s direction is impeccable as well as astutely intricate, demonstrating great attention to detail. Hamish Mouat’s skilful choreography results in a slickly agile cast, that move unfalteringly through countless dramatic set and costume transitions.  

And of course the star of the show is the music which Musical Director Penny Dodd brings to life with unequivocal perfection.  That coupled with the incomparable Les Misérables live orchestra in the pit makes for an incredibly enjoyable evening of entertainment all ‘round.

Despite trying to poke holes in the at times simplistic storyline, and somewhat unbelievable love-at-first sight plot, the sheer grandeur of the production and the hypnotic songs take over, and we feel as if we are watching the show for the first time.  The hallmark of a true classic, not to be missed!

Les Misérables plays The Civic until 30 November. 

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