(seen at the afternoon performance on 25th September 2019).
Both regular Theatremonkey readers will know just how bitterly disappointed,
angry and upset the monkey was on its final visit to the “original” show back in
July. Afterwards, it did wonder whether it had outgrown the show, and if it was
a monkey issue, not a Mackintosh one.
This “All Star” (though they dropped the term, every single one of them is)
version reassured it by the (weeping) bucket.
Simply, every inch of it – music, performance, performers is magnificent. John
Owen Jones – a Valjean the monkey has seen previously – washes all horrid
memories of that July night away with the richness of characterisation, vocal
performance and static acting.
Michael Ball (Javert) lifts “Stars” to a new
level – and it was touching that Rob Houchen (Marius) chose not to imitate
Ball’s original “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables” but still make a connection that
those who remember will notice.
Carrie Hope Fletcher (Fantine) simply smashes
“I Dreamed A Dream” so far into orbit they probably use a Space-Shuttle to bring
her back for the rest of her performance after that.
Shan Ako (Eponine) finds
the most fabulous meaning in “On My Own” – and draws early tears as she feels no
Matt Lucas and Katy Secombe make us glad he didn’t marry his
sister, as the Thenardiers are on spectacular comic – and indeed surprisingly
strong – vocal form.
In smaller roles, Earl Carpenter is a beautifully sung,
beatific Bishop of Digne, Raymond Walsh a highly successfully tipsy Grantaire
and applause for both Young Cosette and Young Gavroche for scene-stealing
performances. Also, the entire team of factory girls should be ashamed of their
bitchiness – and signed up for the return of the show to the Sondheim Theatre
immediately. Fun from them too in “Master of the House” and “Beggar At The
Feast” (watch the sides of the stage for the first, the hands for the latter).
The orchestra sound full and lush, the setting simply works. They may want £175
for remaining tickets... if you can afford it, it’s worth it. As close to the
electricity of the original show, and not to be missed.
5 stars, standing ovation.