I'm not very good at choosing favourites. I never have been; I'm just too indecisive. Recently someone asked me to name my favourite book, so I listed ten. And even that was a struggle.
So if you were to ask me to name my top West End show, it's safe to say you wouldn't get a straight answer. For pure spectacle, it has to be The Lion King; I defy anyone to watch the opening scene and not be open-mouthed in childlike wonder. For originality, it would have to be Once (by the way, I hear Ronan's doing a great job). For nostalgia and fun - and young men in loin cloths - Joseph. For emotion, Miss Saigon. Or maybe Blood Brothers.
You see?! I can't even do it when I've got categories.
But I suppose if you held a gun to my head and said I had to choose my favourite show, one particular answer does come to mind.
Les Misérables (or Les Mis, as it's affectionately known by just about everyone - the full name is a bit of a mouthful, and I for one never know if I should attempt a French accent or not) has got it all. A hero you can wholeheartedly support, even if his rise from parole breaker to mayor does seem a teeny bit far fetched. A villain who you respect because he's doing what he thinks is right, even as you hate him for doing it. A nice love story between two good looking young people. Unrequited love that makes you sob your heart out for a girl you know you probably shouldn't like. Two loveable rogues who bring the house down, and tend in my experience to get the loudest applause of the night, despite being actually a bit nasty towards the end. Oh, and a revolution. Because there wasn't enough going on already.
There is a lot to take in when you watch Les Mis (unless, like me, you've seen it a good six or even times and pretty much know it backwards) but it never gets confusing, and you grow to genuinely care about all the characters. Even the Thénardiers. You might be crying with laughter one minute, then filled with righteous anger at the abuse suffered by a cute little girl the next. From pumping your fist with revolutionary zeal at the end of act one, you suddenly find yourself collapsing in a sobbing heap as the consequences begin to unfold in act two. It's an emotional roller coaster, and that's why I love it.
I have known people to refuse to see Les Miserables because it looks too depressing. Which is fair - it is right there in the name, after all. Many of those same people have probably by now seen the movie version starring Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, because a trip to the cinema puts less strain on the wallet than a theatre ticket. Again, I can't argue with that logic. I was surprised and grudgingly impressed by the film, but it's no comparison to the real deal. For one thing, everyone I've seen playing Javert can actually sing (yes, Russell Crow, I'm looking at you). So I hope some of the people who enjoyed the movie will now consider checking out the stage version. I promise it's worth every penny.
But brace yourselves, because it's a bit of a bumpy ride.
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