Friday, 31 August 2018

REVIEW: Les Miserables - Theatre Royal, Wakefield

After seeing Wakefield Youth Music Theatre’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar last year, I have been eagerly awaiting their 2018 production of my all-time favourite musical - Les Misérables. I’m such a super fan of the show (having seen some 30+ times in the West End), I’m often anxious about seeing amateur productions in case it taints my memories of this phenomenal musical. However I knew this production would live up to the previous high standards seen in Jesus Christ Superstar last year and I certainly was not disappointed.

The story most certainly isn’t a jolly one (as the title suggests!) and has some challenging themes, however the young cast (aged just 9-18) of fifty local youths delivered a flawless West-End worthy production. From the live orchestra's overture (which alone always gets me both excited and tearful all in one go) to the final bows, each cast member - from lead roles to ensemble - gave 100% in their performance and there were no weak cast members. Daniel Romano as leading role Jean Valjean along with his nemesis Javert (Joseph Davis) set the high standards the moment they both sang their first notes during the Prologue where we meet ex-convict and prisoner 24601 Jean Valjean as he is granted parole but pursued by Javert.  Both Romano and Davis have such powerful and pitch perfect vocals whilst delivering all the right emotions as they act out the channelling roles. Whilst each lead role gave an outstanding performance this evening, it was Romano’s moving performance and transformation from ex-convict to Mayor, to doting father to his final days which really delivered the wow factor. I hope that Daniel will continue in musical theatre for years to come. 

Emma Burke’s vocals as Cosette were somewhat hypnotic and soothing - she has the voice of an angel and played the challenging role with ease. Isabel Hinchcliffe (Fantine) and Ella Wilson (Eponine) also gave knock-out performances, a highlight for me being Hinchcliffe belting out “I Dreamed A Dream” with such power and emotion. One of the most iconic parts of Les Mis as a production is the stage set, and whilst Wakefield stage isn’t designed to take the large 360 degree rotating stage set or the large barricades which usually enter the show roughly three-quarters into the story, the production team had managed to do their own unique version consisting of a mainly fixed set barricade consisting of a variety of old doors which moved at various points to recreate the Bishops home, the streets of Paris and the bridge where Javert ends his own life.  Although at first glance I wasn’t sure how or it it would work for various scenes, it did and it worked perfectly well with no glitches. What I loved about this production is that the large ensemble were utilised more frequently than in previous productions, giving everyone more opportunity to shine; from “Beggars At The Feast” the ensemble congregating outside Cosette's wedding to Marius - dressed in the typical workhouse clothes whilst the rich dressed in bright fancy outfits inside the wedding to filling the streets of Paris in “Look Down” and “Look Down/Paris”.

With such a large ensemble it is often hard to spot each individual once let alone spot them a few times but this production was cleverly staged so that the audience got to see not only the talented leads but the incredible ensemble which gives the show its “oomph”, especially in the bigger musical numbers such as “Master Of The House” and “One Day More” There is not one thing I would have changed about this production, other than it causing me to break my usual promise to myself each time I return to the barricades - that promise being “I will not cry, I will NOT cry!” 

The production runs until Saturday 8th September with matinee performances on both Saturdays.  Tickets are available but are selling like hot cakes (and after tonight I can see why!). The Box Office can be contacted on 01924 211311 or A five-star performance! 

I’m already wanting to camp outside the theatre to secure tickets to the groups 2019 production- Sister Act.

Reviewer - Lottie Davis-Browne
on - 30/8/18


  1. We reopened this theatre from a community led group in 1986 with fond memories of its pre WW2 music hall days. The transformation into the production house that it has become is a testament to the dedicated professionals, crew and performers. Well done and thank you for the culmination with Les Miserables 2018. The youths, musicians and crew are outstanding.