Les Miserables (School Edition) – Sutton Coldfield Musical Youth Theatre
Sutton Coldfield Town Hall
Monday 19th February 2024 – Dress Rehearsal
By Nigel Gambles
Photography – Studio 55 Photography
After their acclaimed and highly successful production of “Legally Blonde” Sutton Coldfield Musical Youth Theatre are back, and are taking on the epic Les Miserables following approximately seven months of rehearsals they had their opening night on Tuesday 20th February
This hard-working and enthusiastic youth company guided by director Georgia Young and her team seamlessly created the various groups of nineteenth-century French folk that ex-con Jean Valjean encounters on his harrowing journey in an unjust world. As convicts they shuffled around, shoulders slumped forward. This made for a stark contrast to the commanding, upright posture of the guards. As fighting factory workers, they whole-heartedly embodied the hand-to-mouth existence of the poor. As bedraggled prostitutes; spirited students; inebriated inn drinkers and other disparate characters the ensemble took every dramatic moment in their stride, displaying the vigour and versatility that Les Mis demands.
It was a real pleasure to hear these people sing! The whole Company pulled together to belt out the rousing group numbers and there were some stunning solos from the many main players too. Les Misérables is known and loved for its pounding anthems and stirring reflective lyrics so it was a real treat for the (very appreciative) audience that each and every song from the unforgettable score was well performed.
Ethan Bowleys’ portrayal of Jean Valjean’s fight for salvation was passionate and pitch-perfect. Relentlessly pursued by the police inspector Javert played by Ethyn James, Jean Valjean is a complicated character who is constantly evolving. Introduced to us as a jaded criminal, he becomes an industrialist; a hero; a father; a soldier. Unlike other characters who age during the course of the narrative, Jean Valjean is played by the same actor throughout. Fittingly, Ethan’s powerful performance matured accordingly – and convincingly.
Anamae Parkes was a terrifically tragic Fantine. Her haunting rendition of ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ was beautiful. Every note communicated the sorrow, despair and humiliation Fantine experiences as a troubled, down-trodden grisette.*
All the misery was wonderfully countered by the atrocious antics of Oscar Ralley and Ella Clarke as the corrupt innkeeper Thénardier and his wife, Madame Thénardier. Superb comic timing and synchronicity ensured this pair were despicably delightful as the malevolent and provocative chancers.
Becky Hanratty as Eponine had a voice straight off a cast recording. Toby Foetu-Foster had wonderful excitement and passion as Marius. His onstage ladylove, Cosette, played by Neve Matthews, had a voice as sweet and as clear.
Finally this review would not be complete without highlighting the passion, enthusiasm and total commitment of director Georgia Young, choreographer Esme Wade and Musical director Emily Beaman whose creative brilliance brought the show to life.
Full credit must also be given to all the back of house team who worked tirelessly to ensure the stage was always set.
* French working class girls