Review By Lia Cocks
Celebrating their first big show in their 10th anniversary year, Adelaide Youth Theatre [AYT] marks this occasion by restaging of one of the most famous, grim and difficult musicals of all time – Les Misérables.
As a recap, the story follows former prisoner Jean Valjean, who, after being released from the watchful eye of Inspector Javert, is unable to find work because of his status as an ex-convict. He eventually steals from a local church, but when apprehended, the priest claims that Valjean was given the valuables. This triggers a change in Valjean, and he constructs a new identity for himself as a pillar of society and a local businessman. Years later, he adopts a young girl named Cosette, whose mother Fantine, a former employee of his, became a prostitute and died a horrible death in the gutters after being fired. As the years progress and the French Revolution begins to foment, a grown Cosette falls for a passionate revolutionary named Marius, while Javert begins to close in again on Valjean's secret past.
Upon entering the spectacular Influencers Theatre, we are party to the incredible set, lighting and staging design; where the stage extends into a catwalk design encompassing the orchestra pit. Noting the incredible lighting and projections by Matt Ralph to create scenes and backdrop. Absolute genius.
The opening Prologue really set the scene for the standard we were about to witness, with Kush Goyal in his debut role as Jean Valjean truly cementing himself as the one to watch tonight. The incredible maturity in his performance, well beyond his years, and the tone of his voice lent his casting to be perfect in that role.
My absolute highlight was his rendition of ‘Bring him home’, young Kush absolutely nailed it, with him timbre tone and hitting every note perfectly; a true storyteller.
Commendations to Musical Director Mark Stefanoff and Conductor Mark DeLaine and their talented musicians for bringing to life a difficult score in a sensational seamless and smooth manner. Although, I would’ve liked less volume with the sound to have more clarity of the voices for greater impact in some musical numbers.
I strongly believe a show is only as good as its ensemble, and this ensemble definitely held their own and had some standouts.
The beautiful harmonies of ‘At the End of the Day’ and ‘One Day More’ truly showed the passion and dedication of these young performers to portray an epic story with such dramatic complexities.
Gliding through ‘I Dreamed a Dream’, Chloe Seabrook took my breath away. She demonstrated purity, grit, strength and vulnerability all at the same time.
I chuckled through ‘Lovely Ladies’ where the ensemble really took on their characters with gusto!
There was a beautiful sensitivity between Fantine and Valjean during ‘Come to Me’ at Fantine’s death bed.
We then meet the delightful Maggie Bridges as Young Cosette who sings ‘Castle on A Cloud’ with an innocent, sweet, delicate but heartful quality.
This leads into the hilarious Innkeeper’s Song, ‘Master of the House’; incredible characterisations by Zali Sedgman and Jake Hipkiss as Madame Thenardier and Thenardier respectively. A great flamboyant, comedic duo, with Sedgman a definite highlight for me – her robust voice and ability to command the scene; this young lady is one to watch.
Marius and Enjolras then enter with their student friends, including young Gavroche. Young Noah Magourilos did an outstanding job in this supporting role, and roused applause with every entrance. Axel Flynn as Enjolrus was charming and capable as the charismatic leader of the Friends of the ABC.
Oscar Bridges as star crossed lover Marius is both strong and tender and his performance really shows his impeccable vocal talent and acting chops.
‘A Heart Full of Love’ scene was winsome and engaging, especially when Issy Darwent hit that top note. Her Cosette was angelic, formidable and pitch perfect.
Erin McGlone as the poor innkeeper’s neglected daughter Eponine, brings a vulnerability and honesty to her performance, and I just love the effortlessness in her voice. Her interpretation of ‘On My Own’ was stunning.
Kristian Latella carries a newfound maturity, heart and genuineness to his role as Javert; with a beautiful and soulful voice quality, he delivered the difficult musical numbers ‘Stars’ and ‘Javert’s Suicide’ with conviction and precision. Absolute joy to watch him grow and develop as a performer.
The star of Act II certainly is The Barricade – and what an incredible barricade it was!
The scene where Gavroche volunteers to collect the bullets on the other side of the barricade is visually and audibly beautiful. Again Noah Magourilos does a beautiful job with this character for such a young boy.
After the suicide of Javert and the death of the students at the barricade, the effectiveness of the lighting and projections is the perfect addition to Marius’ delivery of ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’.
Another scene for the Thenadier’s to shine in the Wedding Chorale and where the ensemble showcased their dancing skills in an excellent Venetian waltz.
The final dramatic scene of the dying Valjean – having visions of Fantine and Eponine, before he joins them in death, is well staged and suitably orchestrated. Again, Kush Goyal really demonstrates breathtaking talent, and I cannot wait to follow this young man’s theatre journey.
A spectacular finale reprise of ‘Can You Hear the People Sing’, really got into my bones, and led to the well deserved standing ovation.
Commendations to Costume Coordinator Louise Hamilton and her team for capturing the era with such authenticity.
Well done to Director, Ray Cullen and his assistants, Georgia Broomhall and Jared Gerschwitz; the entire production, direction and movement was very well done. Even more incredible to accomplish this feat in just two weeks!
I am always astounded by the level of young talent in South Australia, and Adelaide Youth Theatre have managed to pull them all together in this remarkable show.