WHY NOT? LES MISÉRABLES SCHOOL EDITION
CARNEGIE HALL THEATRE DUNFERMLINE April 07th 2017
What to do when you suddenly have a free Friday night in Dunfermline? Well on the spur of the moment I took myself off to the theatre and I’m so glad I did. I have never before seen a production by the company Why Not? However if this is the best they can do well it sure leaves “professional” groups to look over their shoulders with concern because this was good, very good indeed. This cast absolutely nailed the show brilliantly. I go to a lot of theatre but seldom have I come away as totally satisfied as I did on Friday night. From the very start you almost immediately forgot that the oldest cast member was seventeen with the majority coming in at both eleven and twelve or up to mid-teens. To a performer they put their very hearts and souls into what is, as you know, a pretty intense body of work. Before I come on to individuals I should point out the actual staging was clever making good use of a turntable to depict characters moving between places and scenes. The turntable had the added bonus of allowing the bringing forward of different characters as required in, for example, the Thenardier’s pub or during the barricade scenes. Subtle use of lighting added to the atmosphere. As far as I could see from my vantage point every cast member was mic’d up and the sound crew did a very fine job opening and closing mics as required and the audio quality was excellent. The eleven piece band/orchestra I should imagine were brought in professionals and this provided a solid bedrock upon which the cast layered their strong vocals. Ok so that is the background now we move on to the cast. Being a parent I have attended various school shows over the years and, if I am honest, the quality can and did vary enormously. This cast were brilliant and believe me that is not hyperbole. Even where perhaps vocally voices were still developing sheer enthusiasm carried the day. Lyrically Les Mis’ is tricky as there are a lot of words to cram into a few minutes as with At The End Of The Day or Master Of The House. Then you have complicated songs where characters follow different melodies such as In My Life and A Heart Full Of Love. Those are hard work for experienced professionals but this cast rose to every challenge and delivered with style and emotion. It almost seems churlish or discourteous to begin singling out individuals from what was a strong ensemble cast however I guess that is what is expected from a review. Thirteen year old Rebecca Mitchell, playing Fantine, absolutely inhabited that role with a maturity far beyond her age. Whilst delivering a passionate angst riven take of the signature song I Dreamed A Dream I’d bet few in the audience were unmoved. Adam Campbell’s Javert had all the unbending stiffness of one who must follow his duty and procedures with what eventually becomes his self destructive obsession. The casting of Lois Hardie as Eponine was inspired. This young lady’s pitch perfect performance was at times tender and powerful. Robyn Green and Aaron Angeloni as young lovers Cossette and Marius acted and sang well whilst Liam Miller and Caitlin McCracken as the sleazy and opportunistic Thenardier’s brought some deft comic touches to their performances. Which leaves us with the principle character of Jean Valjean played with extraordinary skill by seventeen year old Sam Eastop. Sam possesses one of those voices which can move from subtle delivery, Bring Him Home, through to the power required of Who Am I? effortlessly. This all leaves me with the vexed question of how to sum up? Well I have the film, enjoyed and own the live 25th anniversary star studded version and seen two previous staged productions one of which was a full London based touring cast. Beyond doubt this Why Not? cast blew the two staged versions out of the ball park. In truth I do not believe it is possible to contrast and compare Friday night with either the film or the West End 25th cast as that would be totally unfair. However these young girls and guys came very close indeed to providing the sold out performances audiences with about as perfect a night out as possible. This was a truly remarkable evening of really spirited and heartfelt performances from a terrific ensemble very capable of invoking the kind of quality to be found on the West End or Broadway. Terrific stuff indeed and yes I don’t care if you think that is hyperbole.
Graeme Scott K107FM, Blues, Matters Magazine & VRN1287