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Les Miserables - Uplifting, but not miserable!

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THE phenominal world-wide success of Les Miserables surely speaks volumes but is it really as good as it would have us believe?

Adapted from Victor Hugo's powerful novel by Alain Boublil, and with music by Claude-Michael Schonberg, Les Miserables captures the very essence of life in 19th century France - a time of extreme hardship, disillusionment and increasing civil unrest, in particular, for the men and women who have become the outcasts and underdogs of society. They are 'Les Miserables' and this is their story.

At its core is the conflict between two men - Jean Valjean, at heart, a goodly man, but a victim of his own miserable circumstances, and Javert, an officer of the law whose unbending principles of justice eventually lead to his undoing.

Their lives and those befriended and loved by Jean Valjean become inextricably entwined - the wretched Fantine, whose illegitimate daughter, Cosette, is cared for by the thieving, lying Thenardiers whose own daughter, Eponine, is destined to fall in love with idealistic student, Marius, who, in turn, is captivated by Cosette.

And if all this sounds complicated, don't worry. Programmes provide an excellent synopsis.

The whole of Les Miserables is, of course, set to music in what the media once dubbed 'pop opera' and, for this reason alone, it may not appeal to everyone.

That said, it would be a pity to let this deter you as it's the music, perhaps more than anything else, that evokes a plethora of emotion in a story that explores every facet of human nature.

Who, for instance, can fail to pity Fantine in I Dreamed A Dream; laugh out loud at the effrontery of the bickering Thenardiers in Master of the House, or be genuinely inspired by the patriotic fervour of Do You Hear the People Sing? Stirring stuff indeed.

For the most part, sets are simple but no less effective for that, the one exception being the barricade scene; the barricade itself filling the stage, finally turning a full 360 degrees to reveal the terrible and shocking aftermath of the confrontation.

At face value, Les Miserables might seem a dull and depressing subject for a musical, but the clever mix of humour, pathos, love and loyalty weaves a magical aura that stays with you long after the final curtain.

In my opinion, Les Miserables most definitely lives up to its reputation but don't take my word for it - go judge for yourself.

Buy tickets now!

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