Based on the 19th century novel by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables is probably one of the most famous musicals of all time. Set to music composed by Claude-Michel Schönberg, some of the most iconic solos of the Musical Theatre world come from its score. Numerous productions have been staged around the world, perhaps the most famous featuring Colm Wilkinson as protagonist Jean Valjean. The 2012 film version starred such esteemed actors as Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway and was a box office success. It is indeed an epic story with an epic score, so it is undoubtedly a challenge to any company who decides to take it on.
This year, under the name of Urdd Gobaith Cymru, 130 young people from across Wales were chosen to participate in the Welsh Language version of the musical. The production is in partnership with Ysgol Glanaethwy and supported by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
Nothing is lost in translation; the Welsh lyrics blend seamlessly into the famous melodies. Performed with such passion, you become completely unaware that in fact, you are watching amateur Welsh youngsters perform. The acting is superb, but it is the singing which really captivates. During choral numbers, the ensemble of rich, harmonious voices blasts from the stage, filling the venue to the rooftops. The cast’s performance is completely professional, performing some of the more adult themed scenes with maturity. It is even more impressive when you learn that some of the main characters are played by actors as young as 15 years old.
Osian Wyn Bowen plays Valjean, the reformed convict on the run and gives a mesmerizing performance from the very first scene. His voice never falters, and his rendition of ‘Bring Him Home’ is effortlessly poignant and dynamically faultless. Another stand out performance comes from Jodi Bird who plays Eponine. Her voice is a fantastic blend of the powerful and pure, whilst her acting skills are undoubtedly some of the most impressive. Ashley Rogers as Enjorlas also delivers, whilst Erin Wyn Rossington and Dewi John Wykes are satisfyingly grotesque and humorous as the vile Thernadiers.
Although all aspects of the space are used to full advantage, including the revolving circle on the Millennium Centre’s stage, overuse of the black curtain to change scenes does become a bit frustrating. Of course it is difficult to change large pieces of set whilst an iconic solo is being performed, but it did sometimes jar the performance and spoil the mood to see the black curtain descend as often as it did. Some impressive set pieces were used, including a fantastic barricade piece which, situated on the revolving circle, allowed a variety of angles. This was particularly effective during the battle scenes and for Gavroche’s death.
It really is unbelievable to think that the cast are all under the age of twenty; the performance is fantastic and worthy of a West End stage. The project has undoubtedly unearthed future stars of the stage, and it is a privilege to say that they all come from across Wales. A genuinely powerful production of a famous Musical performed through the Welsh Language.
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