So, finally, Les Miserables musical has returned to Singapore after many, many years, and it’s really worth the wait. It was an eye opener, and a genius remake of the legendary masterpiece.
This time, we were so excited that we bought the tickets very early, and ended up getting the best seats, very near the stage and centrally located. It was really worth it, especially with the new visual effects that were embedded into this production (more on that later)
The cast on tour was the Australian cast, and although there may be some deficits in terms of singing excellence, it was more than made up by the outstanding stage display and the creative use of modern technology to bring about a wholesome and well rounded experience. I was fully impressed every single second from the time I walked into the theatre till the moment I left it.
The stage was huge, everything was very large scale, and it really looked like a street corner of the 19th century Paris appearing right in front of my eyes. And the costumes were really well attended to, not only to show the time, but also the statuses of the characters. Every detail was well taken care of, from the colour and material of the gowns to the speck of dirt on the face of those poor starving beggars.
A new experiment by Sir Cameron Mackintosh this time is the use of technology and 3D images to enhance the experience. It’s a bold move to refresh a legendary production that has been there since even before the technology revolution started. Some people may have doubts whether the new IT stuffs will work well with the classical story of 19th century era, or whether it will be a distraction to the audience, but after witnessing its effect and impact, I think it’s a successful move. With the moving 3D images in the background, the stage looked much deeper, and the actors on stage more profoundly shown in foreground. The most impactful scene must be the one where Javert jumped down from the bridge and disappeared into the total blackness of the night. Incredible, I must say.
The centrepiece of the stage, the barricade, was impressive. It was a huge piece, enough for a dozen adults to come up and stand on. And it looked very real, just like it had just been piled up with real furniture and stuff. The producers paid a lot of attention to every single detail to come up with a complete and accurate experience, and ensured the wow factor. Well done.
Back to the cast, Simon Gleeson as Jean Valjean was a reasonable choice. While definitely not the best in vocal strength among all the many Jean Valjean so far, he was not the worst either. Moreover, he was a charismatic and passionate singer, and helped portray the will and spirit of the character quite well (I saw saliva flying on multiple occasions, OMG 🙂 ).
Fantine did not leave me much impression this time though. She disappeared quite quickly, and even her signature song, I Dreamed a Dream, was nothing special. A good voice, but nothing special and no shining at all. I had a hard time remembering her face even though we were seated quite close to the stage (the closest we have been seated so far, I must say).
The one I remembered more vividly was actually Eponine. The singer looked the part (slim figure, ragged clothes, pale face), and she had very beautiful voice. Very high, clear yet still strong. With time and experience, and of course continuous improvement, she will be able to move into bigger roles with more opportunities to shine, and who knows one day she will be Fantine or Christine in a future production. Let’s wait and see.
In all productions of Les Miserables that I have watched, I always love Thenardier. Not a main character, but he appeared in critical moments throughout the whole story, and had quite important role in driving the story and shaping the events. And he had quite a few moments to shine, which happened in this production as well. I was really amazed by the arrangement of the song Master of The House. It was big, messy and noisy, and showed exactly the messiness of not only the inn but also the society in general, where everyone cheated, stole, robbed and even killed everyone else just to be able to survive. Revolution was long overdue.
Overall, it was a wonderful experience. We had a great time, and three hours flew by in a wink. A pity such high quality theatrical performances are so rare in Singapore. Well, maybe things will get better, and more productions will make this tiny island one of their stopovers, especially given the warm welcome, sold out tickets (despite much higher price than elsewhere) and great reception here. Until then, I have no choice but to patiently wait for the next big gig to come our way, so that we can break out from the normal, boring routine of everyday life and live an exciting life, even if for just a few hours.