Theatre review: Les Misérables (Sydney)

May 18th, 2015

Dave and I went to see the new Sydney production of this show recently – he has never seen it on stage before, although he has of course seen the musical version movie.  On the other hand I have seen it at least 6 times before on stage (it may be 7, I lost count), including several previous productions / casts.  Original Australian production (1989 Sydney cast, both versions), original Broadway production (in 1991), 10th anniversary Australian Production (1997), plus very familiar with the International soundtrack which blends cast members from around the world.

Do you hear the people sing?

Do you hear the people sing?

Overall, I am torn about this new production.  The music was good (ie the orchestra).  I thought the new set design, incorporating digital images in place of the revolving stage was good – although there were definitely times when I missed the revolving stage.  The stage direction seemed to make a lot of changes that were borrowed from the film version.  I guess that was ok – although the prologue in the warship rather than in the mining colony was imo unnecessary.  Not only was it a change from the story, it then negated how Valjean was able to set up in business mining the same material.

But oh my – the individual performances?  Incredibly disappointing.  The review in The Australian said that the cast has no show stealers, that “cast members don’t impose their personalities on their roles. Rather, they channel them.”  I feel that is giving most of them too much credit to be honest.  Some of them felt like ghastly caricatures, and were painful to watch – and listen too.  Also while the overall sound of the ensemble was really good, there was another issue – everyone was fast, way ahead of the music.  Not just the ensemble, but soloists too.

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Vale Rob Guest

March 14th, 2009

Originally posted on October 2 2008

I can’t claim to have known him, but I saw Rob Guest perform a number of times in Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera.  He had a beautiful, rich voice, and unlike some singers was able to act enough to be convincing in his roles.  Australia has lost one of it’s leading male performers (even if he was born in New Zealand).  Guest was only 57 years old, and we could have assumed that he still had many years of performing left in him.  By all accounts he was as generous with his time and helping young performers as he was at captivating an audience.

I regret that now I will never be able to see him as The Wizard of Oz in Wicked.  Rodney Dobson, who was also excellent in Les Mis will be taking over the role, and I’m sure he will do a good job.  But it still would have been nice to see Rob Guest in the role.

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