Les Miserables @ Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

It’s amazing how a show as ubiquitous as Les Miserables can at once be utterly recognisable and thoroughly fresh. This tour, currently spending some time in Southampton at the Mayflower Theatre feels more alive than any of the half a dozen or more previous visits I’ve made to revolutionary France.

Laurence Connor and James Powell‘s (relatively) new production may not have the cosy familiarity of the original Trevor Nunn (I still miss the revolve) but it makes up for that with a relentless energy.

No production holds together without strong central casting though and most especially the twin pillars of Valjean and Javert who hold so much of the plot together. Killian Donnelly unsurprisingly sings Valjean’s part beautifully but he also brings a tenderness underpinned by steely resolve to the role. Opposite him Nic Greenshields is a formidable officer of the law, but he too shows the characters humanity, particularly in a lovely moment when he searches the barricades for the body of Valjean and stumbles instead across Gavroche. They both get their fair share of musical numbers and both Bring Him Home and Stars hit home.

Sophie-Louise Dann and Martin Ball bring light relief as the Thenardiers, but these are a coarser, more sinister pair than I’ve seen for a while. The romance comes of course from Cosette falling for the student Marius and, for me, this is often the most cloying part of the show but Harry Apps and Bronwen Hanson bring something a little more real to their relationship (I still want to see Marius run off with Eponine though, especially Tegan Bannister’s cheeky, joyous take on the character.

Elsewhere, in a uniformly powerful cast, Katie Hall makes the most of Fantine’s torment, Will Richardson is a charismatic Enjolras and I particularly enjoyed Ruben Van Keer’s melancholic Grantaire.

You know Les Mis already, of course you do, but if you’re undecided about seeing it again I promise you there is still something new to take every time you see this superb show!

In Southampton until 23 November and on tour. Head to https://www.lesmis.com/uk-ireland-tour for more info.

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