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Les Miserables: Thirty Years More

A few years ago I was working with a youth theatre company and the next project was to be the schools edition of Les Miserables. Unfortunately at the time I had not yet seen the show, or indeed any West End musical. This needed to be fixed and so a small group of us hot footed it to the West End to see what all the fuss was about to get a basic grasp of the show before working on it with the youth group.

For anyone who has a friend who has yet to see a show in the West End, you can’t go far wrong with a visit to the Queen’s Theatre. Everything about the experience was sublime. From the opening few bars, to the playout and everything in between. Even the ticket price, a handsome £17, added to the experience and set me off on my theatre going journey.

The staging, the performances, the music were all above and beyond what I had anticipated; it was worth going just to see the barricade alone. One of the most memorable moments was Val Jean singing 'Bring Him Home'. The reason I highlight this was the silence in the theatre is something I had not experienced before nor have I since. The hush in the audience held in suspense as Val Jean appeals to God was palpable and the applause after, thunderous.

I remember having a conversation about the show once with a tutor of mine. She went to see the show back in the 1980s and found it not to her liking and so left at the interval. I know a few people who have not enjoyed the show and have pointed to its length, the fact it’s sung all the way through and its complex epic plots and subplots and reasons to not take the show to heart. To me, those are all reasons to love it. The music alone is something I could happily listen to every week without ever becoming tired of it.

The coming together of Alain Boubil, Claude-Michel Schonberg, Cameron Mackintosh, Trevor Nunn and John Caird created something truly remarkable. The legacy of Les Miserable is not just the long running stage show, numerous productions round the world and the film, but it’s people like me who it has inspired to continue going to the theatre and long may it do so.

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