The National Theatre welcomes CLOC Musical Theatre’s highly anticipated production of Les Misérables, which opened Friday May 12th. The company is spot on with their timing of the production, waiting patiently after the acclaimed revival; Melbourne audiences are ready for a promised fresh retelling of this musical masterpiece.
I firstly flicked through programme and was reminded and overwhelmed by the community of people that go in to developing a musical production. With a cast of 36, a 14 piece orchestra and more than 40 creatives and volunteers, CLOC must be very proud of the quality of productions they deliver time and time again.
Director Chris Bradtke returns after directing the non-professional premiere of Les Misérables for CLOC staged twenty four years ago. This production aimed to offer a new concept in staging, “something never before seen in Melbourne” but rather delivered a mostly traditional representation of the musical. Scenes flowed wonderfully, and the pace of the musical was spot on. Performers seemed well briefed on their motivation from scene to scene, although the blocking was predictable. A few staging highlights were the reveal and entrance of Eponine before “On My Own” and for “Javert’s Suicide” as the stair movements provided additional drama and excitement. I would have welcomed more of these bold choices, as it provides a more entertaining contrast to the mostly stand and sing numbers.
Choreographed movement by Wendy Belli was safe but effective. With such a large cast comes a great sound and a wonderful range of characters, although I felt in this production was at times quite distracting.
Musical Director Andy McCalman is accompanied by an incredible orchestra. His hard work with the company doesn’t go unnoticed. The confident cast delivers tight harmonies and blend superbly. With Marcello Lo Ricco and LSS on sound, you know your ears are being taken care of. The rich sounds of the orchestra and powerhouse vocals of the full company were always perfectly balanced.
Brenton Staples implemented an assortment of rotating and moveable set pieces, which were handled seamlessly by stage management. His design was successful at assisting the steady flow of the production, which was greatly appreciated, as the musical is already quite lengthy. The barricade required some more variety of texture and colour or contrasting side lighting to make it something special. Although it’s size and ability to rotate was impressive, it seemed underwhelming staged in full light.
Brad Alcock’s lighting design did well to not distract from the intimate drama on stage. With less obstruction from the set, I would have preferred to see more side lighting as seen in “Bring Him Home”. I understand the decision to use pale blues and whites compliment the mood, but potentially a varied use of colour to establish different times of day/night would have been more interesting at times.
Costume Designer Victoria Horne did an impressive job distinguishing class and power. Her attention to detail in ageing and tattered fabrics was realistic and appropriate. Wigs and make-up by David Wisken were excellent, especially the adaptions of wigs as characters aged.
The overall vocals of the cast were outstanding. The featured ensemble moments were always a highlight, especially showcasing the strong males in the cast. Special mention to Jon Sebastian who captivated my attention at every line.
Mark Doran as Valjean had me from start to finish. At no point did I question his character’s motivation. He sings the role brilliantly, with a rich tone and caramel vibrato. It came as no surprise that when the pinnacle moment of of “Bring Him Home” was performed, the audience were utterly astounded.
Shaun Kingma makes a perfect Javert. His attention to diction heightens his every word, strengthening the character’s purpose. His final moments were let down by the staging of his death.
Daniel Mottau plays the role of Marius with ease. Offering a wonderfully real portrayal of the role. Matthew Green as Enjolras has a powerful voice, although too much of his performance was delivered to the audience rather to other actors.
Éponine played by India Morris was an audience favourite. Her rendition of “On My Own” saw applause carry into the following scene. Emily Morris makes a beautiful Cosette. Her high register was an absolute delight. Kirra Young as Fantine was very captivating. I would have liked her to sing more through each phrase to her get the most out of the music and milk every last breath to add intensity to her situation.
Scott Hili is no stranger to CLOC having performed in several of their productions. Hili handles Thénardier effortlessly, adding some refreshing humour in the production. His partner in crime Madame Thénardier, performed by Melanie Ott, is an absolute stand out. Many times I found myself following her mischief in the background of many scenes.
CLOC offers an overall excellent quality of production and is sure to please any traditional fan of Les Misérables. The production is staged at the National Theatre St Kilda, until May 27, 2017.