8 reasons to watch ‘Les Miserables’ in Manila

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The Australian production of Les Misérables begins its tour of Asia on March 11, 2016 in Manila.

The musicale is best known for songs such as “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Do You Hear the People Sing?” “Stars,” “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More,” “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” and “Master of the House,” as well as for its Academy Award-winning 2012 cinematic version starring Anne Hathaway and Australian Hugh Jackman.

Les Misérables will run from March 11 to April 24 at The Theatre of the Solaire Resort and Casino Entertainment City in Parañaque City, with performances from Tuesdays to Sundays at 8 pm, 2:30 pm matinee performances on certain dates, and a 7:30 pm performance on gala night on March 16. Tickets are still available at ticketworld.com.ph, ranging from P1,750 to P7,000.

Filipino expatriates in Singapore will have their own turn to watch the musicale when it performs at the Esplanade Theatre from May 29 to June 26.

New constellation

The stellar performance of the Australian cast lives up to the level of excellence expected of a musicale from Mackintosh and Schönberg, who discovered many pioneering Filipino thespians, from Lea Salonga who played Eponine and Fantine in the 1995 and 2010 anniversary concerts respectively, to Rachelle Ann Go, who currently plays Fantine in London and is set to play the same role in Manila.

Here are the top reasons for watching:

1. Simon Gleeson as Jean Valjean successfully conveyed the complexity of his character – that of a changed man burdened by his past. He conveyed both his character’s enormous physical strength and a gentle spirit with his surprisingly vulnerable yet patrician tone.

2. Cold and calculating Javert. It will be a treat to see such a complex and powerful character onstage – the relentless pursuer of Jean Valjean, the terrible and determined Inspector Javert.

In Australia, Hayden Tee as Inspector Javert thundered onstage with his powerful voice, every bit as brusque as Javert should be. He is truly convincing in the part he plays. The only time the actor hinted at anything else other than Javert’s spartan adherence to the unbending rule of law was when he flamboyantly sashayed to the front of the stage to take a bow at curtain call.

3. Kerrie Anne Greenland as Eponine broke hearts and harvested tears with her endearing portrayal of unrequited love. Her portrayal of Eponine seemed informed by her own experiences. It was honest and real.

4. Chris Durling as student leader Enjolras exuded all the charisma and sheer animal magnetism to be expected of a young revolutionary firebrand. His character smolders with all the youthful zeal of one who is fated to be plucked in his prime. As an actor, his energy is engaging and infectious.

5. Fantine. In the Australian show, Patrice Tipoki as Fantine built a rapport with the audience, making her character’s demise tug all the more tautly at heart strings. Her absence onstage was as felt as much as her sublime presence.

It will be intriguing to see how differently Go portrays the same role while interacting with the same cast and crew.

6. Trevor Ashley and Lara Mulcahy as the devious parents of Eponine, Monsieur and Madame Thénardier, working in absolute harmony, brought the necessary bawdy hilarity to counterpoint all the weighty songs of passion, tragedy, politics, and spirituality. Though their folksy Australian accent, indicative of their characters’ lowbrow status (in contrast to the clearly enunciated songs of upper-crust characters), was at times difficult for Filipino ears to decipher, their physical comedy nonetheless spoke loud and clear, provoking riotous laughter.

7. The video screen projection during sewer scene created a fantastic illusion of depth and movement, as if Gleeson, carrying an unconscious Doidge on his shoulder, was traversing the labyrinth of tunnels underneath Paris while actually staying within the same spot on stage.

8. Hugo’s sketches, transformed into video screen backdrops, are masterpieces that lend themselves well to the set.

Being a sung-through musicale where all dialogue, story telling and acting is through singing, Les Misérables demands that actors not only perform flawlessly show after show, they must also sing both emphatically and clearly every time.

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