Musical theatre review: Les Miserables

BGE Theatre, Dublin

When it first opened to mixed reviews at London’s Barbican Theatre in 1985, few could have anticipated how Les Misérables would become one of the world’s most enduring and beloved musicals.

33 years later, its appeal shows little sign of waning, judging by its heavily sold new Irish run.

Flamboyant, colourful and boasting more drama and twists than an Eastenders Christmas Special, the melodrama based on Victor Hugo’s novel is born again under the production of theatre giant Cameron Mackintosh.

Killian Donnelly and Cosette. Photo: Matt Crockett.

At Dublin’s Bord Gais Energy Theatre, there is an extra frisson that the lead role of Jean Valjean is being played by one of our own.

Killian Donnelly, who grew up listening to his dad’s Colm Wilkinson CD, has become one of the West End’s bona fide stars.

It’s easy to see why. His Jean Valjean brings a new texture and layer to a familiar story.

You couldn’t quite call anything in Les Mis subtle but his rendition of ‘Bring Him Home’ is nuanced and elegant, giving it a whole new power.

Even with a juggernaut of a show such as this, if you evolve you thrive. The production benefits from vibrant new design featuring many of Hugo’s works of art, and they feature particularly effectively in some key scenes approaching the story’s finale.

The battle scenes, using the power of special effects and visual trickery, are almost cinematic in their scale and scope.

Best of all, Mackintosh and his cast and crew have managed to infuse the potentially dour story with a sense of colour and humour, best evidenced in a lively bar sequence that leads to a stomping version of ‘Master of the House’.

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