As a youngster I always loved film musicals: West Side Story, Grease, and The Wizard of Oz were my favourites. As an adult this interest wavered, but the Saturday night shows to find Joseph, Nancy and Dorothy revived my interest; I heard songs from musicals I wanted to see, and people I wanted to see perform.
Specifically, ever since I heard Daniel Boys sing Bring Him Home I've wanted to see Les Miserables.
Trips to a West End musical are expensive, so very rare. So in 2010 I treated myself to the next best thing; the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert on DVD. And I loved it.
I bought the Original Cast Recording, and the 25th Anniversary Cast Recording. I knew the story, I love the songs; One Day More is the most played song on my iTunes.
A rare opportunity to London presented itself a few weeks ago, so my mother and I booked tickets for Les Miserables. I was concerned that the show might not live up to my expectations, but we eagerly took our seats and awaited the show.
Not only did it live up to my expectations, it far exceeded them.
One of things I never really appreciated until I saw the show live was the extremes of emotion it goes through, and how the music reflects this perfectly, from the self-righteousness of Valjean and Javert in the Prologue, the anger and desperation of the poor in At The End of the Day, and how they turn on Fantine.
At this point I should say that apparently we were watching the understudies for Fantine and Javert. Had we not been told before the show I wouldn't have been any the wiser; both were excellent.
I've always loved the tawdry bawdiness of Lovely Ladies and Master of the House, particularly with their dark undertones, and both of those were fantastic; great to see my 'I'd Do Anything' favourite, Sarah Lark as one of the whores, and Vicky Entwhistle (Janice Battersby in Coronation Street) was excellent as Madame Thenardier.
My one worry about seeing the show just now is that Eponine is being played by Danielle Hope, winner of the TV series 'Over The Rainbow'. I knew she could sing and act, but she never did anything for me. Boy, was I wrong, she was fantastic. Her Eponine is very boyish; you can see why Marius doesn't really see her. She was loud and brave when needed. A Little Fall of Rain was one of the most poignant and sad moments in the show for me.
The charge to the revolution was tremendous. The soldiers, from the young Marius and Enjoras, the little Gavroche and the ageing Jean Valjean were all excellent. The climax of the battle between Valjean and Javert was incredible. They start the show as a very clear protagonist and antagonist but by the end you see them as two sides of the same coin.
Special mention to Samantha Dorsey as Cosette; it must be one of the most difficult part to play. She had no huge dramatic or tragic moments like most of the characters, but she drives so much of the story. It would be easy for the audience to ignore her or to wonder why, in particular, Marius and Valjean are so devoted to her - but she let us see that.
I had read a review of the film that said Les Miserables didn't have an uplifting ending, but I found the ending, though sad, was incredibly uplifting. All in all, it was the best musical I have ever seen and I would go back again and again if I could.