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As a piece of musical theatre however, it is not without its flaws. This twenty-fifth anniversary production — free of the revolve and black box-bound design of the original production, and instead imbued with a perplexing sparseness and complexity through its use of projections — is a slick, well-oiled machine.
It knows how to push all the right buttons in order to manipulate your emotions musically and through its staging; however, to resist its emotional pull and not let yourself get sucked into it all is to deny the story its raw power.
It is a story of Jean Valjean, a man who — imprisoned on a trumped up charge — is given his ticket of leave, evades the law, is hunted by the officer Javert, and builds a life for himself as an honourable and respectable man.
It is a relatively simple story, one of love, compassion and redemption, found in stories, characters and in slices of life everywhere. His projections are animated too, slightly, almost imperceptibly.
The only drawback here is the sewers sequence towards the end; the movement here is too much too soon; too sudden, too noticeable. The only one who really does affect you, as with most productions, is Patrice Tipoki as Fantine — a struggling single mother, her plight is what inspires Valjean to become a better man and what gives the story its shape.
Her death in the first half-hour is truly felt as it is a strong dose of tangible emotion. The choreography is largely rigid, and nothing feels truly honest or heartfelt, as though it comes from experience.
Similar to those created for the recent film adaptation of the musical, there is an unrelenting drive, a constant rhythm driving the scenes which works well to give the show an urgency, an edge, which the original production perhaps lacked.
The scale of the show is bigger, wider, more expansive; more filmic.
Stage-pictures are created with a cinematic brush, and they at times swallow the very human drama that is being told, being performed in front of it. As a show, a juggernaut, a lumbering gargantuan behemoth, it is what it is, and no amount of words against it is going to change to public perception of it.The literal meaning of les miserables is "the miserable ones." The characters are french and the book is centered around their lives.
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