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Les Misérables - Echo Youth Theatre (04.04.2024)

"Do you hear the people sing?" asked Echo Youth Theatre in this special 'school edition' of the global megahit musical Les Misérables. And with a company as talented as this one, thankfully their voices were heard loud and clear.

It got off to a slightly inauspicious start with the prologue (Look Down) proving a bit of a stretch at the lower end of the vocal range for the fairly small male company, but once we moved on to the At the End of the Day it was clear we were in safe hands.

Under the expert tutelage of Musical Directors Chris Davidson and Georgia Folkard, and Musical Supervisor Acer Smith, the company numbers in particular sounded stunning with clear, precise arrangements. Speaking of direction, it was evident what a great job Co-Directors Dan Rayner and Chris Davidson had done - the discipline showed by the company was most impressive. It would have been easy to get carried away or lose focus in a show of this magnitude, but everyone knew exactly what they were doing at all times, which is no mean feat given this was a cast of 44.

Despite being a superb collective undertaking, there were a handful of actors that really stood out among this sizeable cast. Tallulah Godfrey blew me away with her outstanding performance. I recognise it's a slightly moot point commending someone in a youth company on the grounds of their age, but the emotional maturity Tallulah displayed in her heartbreaking performance as Éponine was one which was particularly exceptional given that she is just 12 years old. And I have seldom heard vocals so accomplished for someone of her age.

By comparison, at the ripe old age of 17, Korben White is an old hand, and his 'experience' shone through, giving us a sensitive and measured portrayal as the young lover Marius. A particular highlight was hearing some audible sniffles among the audience as he gave a haunting rendition of Empty Chairs and Empty Tables.

Isabelle Brown also shone as the tragic Fantine. Alongside some breathtaking vocal ability, Isabelle also showed she has the acting ability to match. Despite his diminutive stature, Oscar Noble always ensured our attention was on him with his impressively confident turn as the streetwise youngster Gavroche.

Alex Leech and Holly Trinder also stood out as 'masters of the house' - the Thernardiers, though frankly, they would have been doing something wrong if they didn't. While it's easy to dismiss their performances somewhat because of the funny material they had to work with, they both squeezed every ounce of comedy from it and displayed an excellent stage presence throughout.

George Applegate (Jean Valjean), Harrison McKay (Javert), Mabel White (Cosette), and Jamie Harrison (Enjolras) should also be praised for their excellent vocals, alongside Gabriel Jones who appeared to be the hardest working member of the ensemble, and excelled in whatever role he was tasked with playing.

I could go on and on, but quite simply this is a stunning piece of theatre that any company, regardless of age, would be delighted to put their name to. Everyone involved in this production should be so proud, and I feel privileged to have simply had the chance to see it. If you do get a chance and it's not already sold out (which if there's any justice, it should be), do check out for tickets. Les Misérables is on at the Walter Roy Theatre until 7 April.


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