Tres Miserables

Tres Miserables
Seemingly Evil Productions. Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Downstairs Lounge@The Swanston Hotel, Grand Mercure, 195 Swanston Street, Melbourne. Nightly at 9pm Mar 27 – April 5, 2014

Tres Miserables; 50 songs, 30 characters, 3 performers and 60 minutes. It’s every Les Mis fan’s dream isn’t it? This is by no means the first time that a long and ambitious work, musical or otherwise, has had the edited comedic treatment; from Forbidden Broadway to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare it’s a tried and tested formula. What makes it work is strength of the writing and the performers themselves. So, does Tres Mis carry on the tradition admirably? It does. It’s not a perfect show, but it’s an incredibly enjoyable hour (which feels much shorter, not something you could say about the source materials),  and I suspect that this review may quickly become redundant, as we watched dozens of extra chairs being piled into the room to accommodate the sell-out crowd last night.  When Sam Garlepp steps out on stage as Jean Valjean and begins to sing, there’s a fleeting disappointment… he doesn’t have a trained voice and a niggling concern that we may be in for a musical evening that is not musical manifests for an instant. Fortunately it just as quickly floats away as the charisma and timing of the cast quickly makes up for any lack of vocal training (although Alice Tovey has a killer voice and uses it to its best advantage.) The show is fast paced and funny, relying on the joie de vivre of the cast, the audience’s knowledge of the musical itself (film or stage, doesn’t matter) and some nice satire of modern politics and life including a nod to the current Royal Commission, talk of Instagram filters, hashtags and selfies in the student uprising, and some swift kicks to both Labour and Liberal politics along the way. There are running jokes that work a treat, lyrical reworkings of some of the best known songs (Tovey’s rendition of On My Own as a masturbatory fantasy is a highlight), and enough tongue poking at the original to keep you laughing.

The three performers are sharp, endearing and work as a close knit team. Lachie McKenzie plays Javert - a love sick inspector intent on being close to Jean Valjean (or JVJ as he calls him) - with verve, Tovey is a joy to listen to and watch, and Garlepp is both funny and endearing as JVJ. Tres Miserables is a rollicking romp, a little rough and ready at times, but if know and love Les Miserables, or even if you know and loathe it, you should have a tres bon time.

Kelly Lefever

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