Review By Michelle Sutton
Seeing a production of Les Misérables is always somewhat of a visceral experience. You often feel it in your body before anything else. You cry from the injustice one moment, then your heart swells with joy the next. You get goosebumps from the grief and then you are laughing out loud. The score, the words, the costumes and the choreography all create a story that resonates deeply with our shared sense of humanity. This is why Les Misérables has remained of the most beloved musicals of all time, since it first made its world debut in 1985. The musical written by Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, based on Victor Hugo’s novel, follows the life of Jean Valjean on an epic journey that delves into morality, poverty, a revolution and young love. Noteable Theatre Company presented the Sydney debut of the new production of Les Misérables in 2019 and have revived it for a 2021 run at The Concourse Theatre in Chatswood. I have seen a few different productions of Les Misérables over the years, some also performed at The Concourse Theatre but from the opening song Look Down I realise this is different: this is Les Misérables on steroids. Co-music directors Anthony Cutrupi and James McAtamney have accomplished an extraordinary task by re-energising the much-loved score. Guitar and drums take a more prominent place in many songs, adding the subtlest amount of edge and modernising them without going over the top. You can feel the exuberance radiating off the stage with director Rod Herbert returning and the majority of cast members reprising their roles from their 2019 run. The actors’ energy is through the roof, matching the faultless orchestra. The cast’s eagerness to be back on stage and their passion for the show and their craft is clear. This is never so evident as with Marcus James Hurley who leads as Jean Valjean with consistently affecting vocals that range from the triumphant declarations of ‘Who Am I’ to the tender prayer of ‘Bring Him Home’. The first act of the show especially is propelled along by the force of nature that is Hurley’s intensity and talent. Most of the principal cast have played their roles before and the benefits of having time to deeply understand and develop the complexity of their characters is evident. The show flows seamlessly between decades with credit to the stage manager/technical director Anthony Halpin. The barricade, the scene of the student revolution based on the historic 1832 Uprising in Paris, France is an impressive feat by Isabelle Piker the production manager. The attention to detail by Carina Herbert in wig and make up design is excellent, I especially appreciated Jean Valjean and Javert’s hair becoming increasingly grey with every time jump. The ensemble is an important part of Les Misérables in creating the community spirit and comradeship and the members of this production’s deliver with strong harmonies and characterisation that rivals professional productions. There is always pressure for a theatre company taking on the greats, when audiences have every lyric memorised and cherish their favourite characters their expectations can be set sky high, potentially affecting their appreciation for the production. It is my opinion that anyone who sees Notable Theatre Company’s Les Misérables will leave astonished and inspired all over again as they have managed to capture the essence of the show and make it feel exciting and new. Noteable Theatre Company’s production of Les Misérables is enthralling from start to finish, with no low points or missteps. Every song and setting sweeps the audience away into an epic melodrama that is simultaneously escapist but also deeply grounding and humbling, imparting the lesson that although we cannot choose our lot in life or avoid suffering, we are in control of our integrity and how we treat people. No matter what obstacles we are faced with we can always choose to show grace to ourselves and others. I for one certainly cried my eyes out as if witnessing the tale of tragedy, resilience and forgiveness for the very first time. I commend this production for showing audiences what community theatre is truly capable of and just how powerful it can be. If the standard of this production is anything to go by, I cannot wait to see what Noteable Theatre Company does next. Les Misérables is showing at The Concourse Theatre, Chatswood until the 14th March 2021.