Music / Australian Chamber Orchestra. At Llewellyn Hall, June 23. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD
“LES Miserables” may or may not be as the publicists have it, “the world’s favourite musical”, but the Schönberg/Boublil version of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece has been money in the bank over its many years of performance around Canberra.Now, fresh from a huge success with “Wicked”, Free Rain Theatre is having a go at this theatrical warhorse, with director Cate Clelland holding the reins, but this time it’ll be staged across the border at The Q.
Earlier this week Clelland told media and supporters that she had accepted the challenge put to her by producer and Somes because of the “riveting story, great music…and because it was about things that matter”.
In Clelland’s view, the musical, though not quite as long as the novel, had been true to Victor Hugo, intensifying and heightening the plot while bringing out questions of redemption, power, politics, love and compassion and above all asking the question, “what is a good person?”
For her as director, the two antagonists, Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert could both be viewed as good men. “It also asks what a family is?”Conductor Ian McLean introduced several of the stars, notably Peter Cousens, who will play the central role and who as a younger man performed the romantic lead, Marius, around Australia and the Phantom in London.
Cousens, who has done some preliminary work with Free Rain, is heading off to Singapore on a cruise ship egg and will return to rehearsals before “Les Mis” opens in early April, entertaining those present with one of the musical’s most vocally demanding songs, “Bring Him Home”.
He was joined at Teatro Vivaldi by Sam Ward playing Marius, Stephanie Maclaine, a year 11 student from Canberra Girls Grammar School playing Cosette and one of Free Rain’s budding dramatic actresses, the well-known Canberra singer Kirrah Amosa, who will tear at the heartstrings in the plum role of Eponine—“Citynews” predicts that she’ll soon be snaffled up for bigger stages around the country.
Clelland and Somes have assembled a mighty show of Canberra talent for this most epic of shows.
“Les Miserables,” at The Q – Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, April 4 – 22. Bookings to theq.net.au or 6285 6290.