I need not have been! The cast give their all and they have plenty to give. There is talent in depth in the company and this is such an ensemble piece, many of them are given their chance to shine.
I could, quite easily, list all of the principal players and say very positive things about them – they deserve that. Singling a few out for special praise seems to underplay the achievement of those I don’t mention – but I don’t want to produce a list of names.
Les Mis stands or falls pretty much as a result of the performance of the Valjean. He is on stage for the majority of the 3 hours and has some incredibly challenging music to sing. Kurt Townsend does a sterling job. He has a powerful voice and a good sense of character: a genuine talent. He is well matched by Ben Watts who has gravity and strength as Javert. I could hardly believe that the actor playing Enjolras is only 14 years of age – he is certain to progress to greater things over the next few years.
I enjoyed the flamboyance of Kerri Dixon as Madame Thénardier – a real gem of a part for a character actor. Jasmine Coll, as her daughter Éponine, has a true sense of stillness and this gave her portrayal a special edge.
I could go on – maybe I should – but suffice it to say that there is a cast of talented singers and actors on display. Many of them could well be in the West End in a few years time. It is great that so many young people in Oxfordshire have such a passion for music theatre.
Given the resources of what is, essentially, a studio theatre, the production is very effective. The use of a revolve is a neat echo of the original London version. The costumes work well giving a sense of character and period. Edward Blagrove – one of the busiest men on the Oxford drama scene – directs with clarity and conviction. It must have been a massive undertaking to bring this show together. He should be very proud of the results.
I hate to have to say this but the talent on stage was somewhat let down by a very lacklustre performance from the orchestra. Ensemble was ragged, timing was, on occasion, very poor and the choice of tempi frequently very doubtful. More time should have been spent to ensure that the orchestra supported the singers rather than drowning them out. There were also a large number of tuning issues (particularly with the upper strings and parts of the brass section) which marred the overall effect to my ears. I know this piece very well and the singers were not well served musically.
Luckily, this did not spoil the evening. I love the show and I had to wipe away a tell-tale tear on a couple of occasions. I had my doubts that 18 year olds could convincingly carry this intensely emotional show – but they did.
A word about the theatre itself….
It was my first visit to the Theatre at Headington. There is no doubting that it is a well-equipped performance venue. The seats are somewhat short on leg-room – if you can get row D that would seem to be your best bet if you are over 5ft 2in tall! Also there was an excessively lengthy queue at the Box Office to pick up the tickets – many patrons were clearly and understandably annoyed by this. However it was not manned by the theatre's own box office staff, and I'm assured these delays are not the norm!
It is a venue I hope to return to – but I will make sure I get my tickets in Row D!