CHEQUER Mead Productions’ performance of Les Miserables at the town theatre last night (29 July) brought the audience to their feet at the end of a simply outstanding show.
The dark themes of the world’s favourite musical could have proved a difficult choice for a cast who were all under 19 and in full time education, but their wonderfully mature performances belied their youth and brought the audience to cheers – and tears – as the tragic tale unfolded.
Sam Tutty in the lead role of Jean Valjean was astonishingly good.
His voice was warm and confident, and his acting ability second to none in a performance which was heart-breaking, not least when singing the prayerful ballad Bring Him Home. While his tender death scene duet with Fantine can have left few dry eyes in the house.
Tara Mahy was haunting as Fantine, the abandoned mother forced into prostitution to support her child, and she veered between anger and despair in a touching and nuanced performance which made I Dreamed a Dream a real show highlight.
Liam Carse had both the voice and the physical presence for Javert, the implacable Nemesis hunting Valjean across the years. Devoted to the letter of the law, but with no understanding of Justice, Liam’s death scene was a powerful portrait of a man ultimately unable to comprehend a world in which former convict Valjean was so undeniably the better man.
The comic interludes provided by the ghastly Thenardiers provide much-needed relief in the story and last night’s production was blessed with two terrific performances from Tom Clark and Daisy Minords as the innkeeper and his wife.
Tom, all gangling arms and legs, was wonderfully and physically funny, and Daisy’s great vocals and acting made the most of his appalling spouse.
With her long hair and delicate frame, Mitzi Tullett looked touchingly frail as the abused and neglected orphan Cosette and her rendition of Castle on a Cloud was a delight. While young Charlie Stripp was outstanding as Gavroche, earning hugely well-deserved applause for his great voice and strong acting ability as the funny, feisty street urchin who dies on the barricades.
Jack Barnard was a handsome and endearing Marius, and adult Cosette – played by Samantha Locker-Lampson – has a soprano as beautiful as her face, and soared with effortless grace through the difficult ensemble songs with Marius and Eponine.
Grace Dougan brought a streetwise swagger to Eponine which hid her heartbreak as Marius fell for Cosette, and her lovely vocals made On My Own a highlight of the show – and a tragedy of her death in the arms of Marius.
The cast was well served by its excellent chorus of ‘lovely ladies’ and doomed youths, particularly an excellent Ryan Cottee as the idealistic Enjolras, Sam Cunningham as the cynical Grantiere and Tobias Braxton, who brought humanity to the role of the Bishop.
This was an evening of wonderful theatre by a cast of enormously talented young performers and it was heartwarming to hear the enthusiastic plaudits voiced by the audience as they made their tear-stained exit from Chequer Mead after a standing ovation.
Deputy Mayor Julie Mockford, who attended the show, said it for all of us.
“I am thrilled it was so good,” she said. “It was totally amazing – so much talent on one stage – the cast were absolutely brilliant. Well done each and everyone of you.”
Reviewer : Geraldine Durrant