Les Miserables Review from 1998
Review by Sven Verlinden
Well, seeing Miz again could have been very boring, as I've now seen the show a lot recently. But it wasnt. Having seen John Owen-Jones two years ago, when the show just reopened after the changes, I remember quite vividly it was not a nice experience for me. But now he was back at the Palace, after the extensive Tour in the UK, and I found myself really liking what he did. In fact there was nothing I didn't like. He was BRILLIANT actually. Jones has improved a lot vocally and now really really persuaded me. He gave a brilliant rendition of Bring Him Home and Who Am I. The only slight remark should be that he's still a bit too young for the role, but that's the only thing I could find...
Tim Morgan has done the opposite. I liked him very much last year, but he really has gone downhill. Unbelievable but true. He now has a sort of woble in his voice, which doesnt sound healthy at all. Stars and his Suicide are only 50% of what it used to be. This is really a shame. Maybe hes not up for 8 performances a week ?
Fantine was played by understudy Dianne Pilkington. Although she has not the stage presence of the wonderful Silvie Paladino, she was nice. Vocally there were some hesitations, but she has a nice smile, really looking the part.
Amanda Salmon has now got the part of Eponine, after the incredibly gorgeous Gemma Wardle has left, and she was not bad at all. She looks very in character, really doing a lot on the detail side, but in certain scenes she didn't convince me. E.g. when she sings On My Own, she smiled almost the whole time; well, I can be wrong, but isn't it supposed to be a sad song ?
Paul Manuel is the new Enjolras, and looks exactly like Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind (and I really wish Manuel had gone with the wind !!!!) My goodness, whats this ?? Is there really no other decent Enjolras to be found in the West End ? I wish Mr. Manuel had read the manual for Enjolras first before playing it the way he does ! All this shaking hands he does is simply ridiculous...
Andrew Keelan (my savior NOT to see Graham the last time I went) was on as Marius again. Nothing special, but not bad at all. His hair is a bit funny though, so are his facial expressions at times...
Cosette is now played by Rebecca Vere, and to be honest, she can't compete in the Annalene Beechey-competition Im afraid. She's not bad, but doesn't have a nice expression I think, and the voice has a bit too much vibrato to be good. At least shes tiny, but that's about it...
The incredible Teddy Kempner and Liz Ewing were doing a wonderful job again as the Thenardiers. Teddy can't stop improvising, but really makes me laugh the whole time, so its OK. This time he was completely drunk during the Bargain scene (never saw that before).
Particularly liked Sam Hiller and James Doherty again; very nice, chaps !!!
Jessica Mole and Adam Sheffield were very nice as well as little Cosette and Gavroche.
Tim Godwin is still an incredible Feuilly; Im really very sad he wasn't on as Enjolras, but then again, I might have thought I had missed an incredible performer like Paul Manuel. Now I know I dont have to worry about that...
Review by Sven Verlinden
I had been waiting to see Stig Rossen as Valjean for a long time, and now the fairly new cast had arrived at the Palace Theatre. It was the right time to see the updated version again.
Tim Morgan, former Grantaire and understudy Javert, now plays the bad guy full time. Teddy Kempner plays Thénardier, but the rest of the principals in the cast haven't changed since last November.
At Tuesday's perfromance, I saw Tania Newton as Mme Thénardier. She was hilarious !! She did a lot of things I didn't see Liz Ewing do, who is very good as well (maybe she's a bit more dirty in the face !) I especially liked the Bargain scene, in which Teddy was doing some very funny things (but again very different than previous Thénardiers). Maybe he loses the 'satan' side a bit (and he keeps forgetting certain words !!) but I liked it the way he invented new funny jokes.
Stig Rossen is unbelievable as Valjean. I've never seen any Valjean like this, and he knows how to make the part his own. His Soliloquy and "Who Am I" are real showstoppers and "Bring Him Home" has never been better: I can't imagine him doing it like this every night (but he does; such deep emotions are rarely felt !). He looks just right for the role and is indeed very moving in his scenes with Cosette and Marius, and very angry with Javert, yet he thanks him after Javert let him go away with Marius (which was brilliant !).
Speaking of Javert, Tim Morgan has great potential to become my third favorite Javert (behind Philp Quast and Michael McCarthy). He's a bit unsure about his lines (e.g. in Paris), but he has a great deep voice. He missed some of his top notes, but I can forgive him. His "Stars" were truly amazing.
Silvie Paladino still plays Fantine with as much warmth and emotion as last year, and she makes "I Dreamed a Dream" an unforgettable moment in the show. When I looked at her face during the last scene (when she cried of happiness, seeing Valjean and Cosette together), my heart broke. I enormously liked it the way Stig holds her face when he's about to die, and when Cosette returns, she takes Silvie's place. I was crying !!!!!
Annalene Beechey is still the perfect choice for Cosette: she's pure, young and fresh. It will be a great loss when she leaves the show. Eponine was still played by the gorgeous (now blond!) Gemma Wardle, who makes it worth the cost of the ticket to see the show again and again. She IS Eponine. Brava !!!!
On Tuesday I saw Graham Bruce and on Thursday's Matinée understudy Andrew Keelan was playing Marius. Both aren't of the same standard as e.g. Michael Ball or Mario Frangoulis, but Keelan has captured more the innocence (and has a better voice) than G. Bruce. I shall spare you my views on him (but you can read them in previous reviews I made). Mark O'Malley has come to London to play Enjolras (which he already played on tour). I didn't think much of him (except that he reminded me of a cowboy at times). He was an excellent Chris in Miss Saigon but he missed the arrogance and charisma a good Enjolras should have. I must mention James Doherty as Grantaire and Sam Hiller as Claquesous/Bamatabois, because they proved to understand what they were playing/doing. They interacted extremely good and James does some very funny, amazingly simple things of which you ask yourself why anyone else hasn't thought of doing them.
The orchestra, lead by Colin Pettet, was extremely good on both occasions, which isn't as 'normal' as you might think. Anyway, if you haven't see this cast yet, hurry and see one of the best possible performances of Les Miserables !!
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