REVIEW: New Les Miserables is a theatrical tour de force
YOU may think you've seen Les Miserables as one of the 65 million theatre-goers globally since 1985 or the countless millions of others who watched the 2012 film.
But opening night at QPAC's Lyric Theatre proved nearly 2000 of those people wrong.
The renaissance of Les Miserables is producer Cameron Macintosh's gift to the 25th anniversary of the much-loved, longest-running musical in the world.
The symmetry of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's original creation, based on legendary French writer Victor Hugo's novel, with Matt Kinley's set designs and projections, inspired by Hugo's own paintings, transforms an already dramatic and emotionally charged musical into an even more powerful and spellbinding production.
The seamless set changes (that make you ask yourself: 'Where did that village/wagon/whorehouse come from? It wasn't there a minute ago') and the masterful projections that immediately put the audience in a specific time and place, speed up the action and enrich the emotion.
Add in some very clever special effects and lighting by Paule Constable and you will believe Javert is falling to oblivion in his watery grave, that you are dodging gunfire at the barricade, rowing in the bowels of a tall ship or coming through the tunnel with Jean Valjean and into the light.
But even the stage's greatest "tricks of the trade" would be nothing without its cast members whose job it is to make the characters real and believable.
Simon Gleeson (Jean Valjean), Hayden Tee (Javert), Patrice Tipoki (Fantine), Kerrie Anne Greenland (Eponine), Emily Langridge (Cosette), Chris Durling (Enjolras) and Euan Doidge (Marius) put their own stamp on their tasks and relish their solo moments in the spotlight to honour their place at the top of the credits.
The vocal tug-o'-war between Gleeson and Tee as they spit their hatred for each other across a piece of chain is mesmerising.
Yet both are more than capable of showing the audience their softer, inner being in Bring Him Home or Who Am I? (Gleeson), as well as Javert's Soliloquy.
When the Sunshine Coast's own Patrice Tipoki, playing doomed Fantine, gives her angelic rendition of I Dreamed A Dream, she is indeed channeling the little girl in her whose first experience of musical theatre was seeing Les Miserables at QPAC all those years ago.
Like a wounded little bird, she gives her character just the right measure of hopefulness and helplessness it demands, combined with the inner strength to ensure her young daughter Cosette's future is protected.
The love triangle between Langridge's Cosette, Doidge's Marius and Greenland's Eponine is played out beautifully in A Heart Full of Love.
The three bring understated emotional elegance and warmth to their roles without the need for Hollywood star power.
Meanwhile, the outrageously bawdy and scruple-less Thenardiers (Lara Mulcahy and Trevor Ashley) lighten the load with comic relief that threatens to steal the show from under the main characters' noses.
Special mention to young Nicholas Cradock (Gavroche), who made his professional musical theatre debut and Chloe De Los Santos (Little Cosette).
Their performances showed depth beyond their years.
Finally, a production like this is only as strong as its ensemble cast. After all, they are "The Miserable Ones".
Each member rises to the occasion, scurrying about the stage to appear greater in number as they effortlessly transition from the unemployed and factory workers to prostitutes, beer house customers to beggars, students and citizens to revolutionaries, wedding guests to ghosts.
The sustained applause and standing ovation from the back rows down and across the top of QPAC's Lyric Theatre on Friday night suggest that while the revolutionaries may have not won the war, the Les Mis renaissance is certainly a triumph and theatrical tour de force befitting QPAC's 30th year.
Les Miserables plays QPAC's Lyric Theatre through January 17.