Scotch College, Adelaide. July 25 - 28, 2012.
There is a lot that a school age group can learn from rehearsing and performing a production of Les Misérables. The premise of the story, based on actual events, will be a history lesson in its own right, not to mention the themes of love, loss, honour and respect, all paramount to the story. By learning their characters, exploring them and seeking to understand them each student can gain an insight into the struggles and suffering past generations have endured, and be reminded not to take their own good fortune for granted. The themes of this musical, however, are incredibly difficult to convey and require a lot of skill and depth from the actor. This is the detail that is missing in a school production of this complicated show.
Scotch College’s production of the popular musical reaches for the stars and often comes very close. In the lead role of Jean Valjean, Matthew Prime gives a very solid, reliable performance. His characterisation anchors the show from start to finish.
In the comedic role of Thénardier, Laurence Boxhall had wonderful timing and great energy. He also sang his numbers with gusto and when paired with his partner in crime and wife Madame Thénardier, played by Tiana Catalano, the two were un-stoppable and audience favorites.
Tahlia Fantone as Éponine also gave a standout performance. Vocally she has the greatest control and as an actress the best intention and focus of all of the players. Marius, played by Homi Ebrahimi has a lovely tender voice which echoes gently over his French accent. His characterisation of Marius has some way to go, but the foundations were very solid. Vocally he hit his straps in 'The Café Song (Empty Chairs At Empty Tables)'.
As Marius's love interest Cosette, Georgia Broomhall sang note perfect, her characterisation could have been much deeper but was still a pleasure to watch. Benji Riggs as Inspector Javert owned his character well and made every minute on stage count. Bethany Hubmayer as Fantine also gave a notable performance with a lovely characterisation.
Director Adam Goodburn has put a lot into this production, and has eked out all of the little nuances and details you would expect from a professional show, which the students have soaked up and executed well. Ensemble numbers were particularly strong and enjoyable and the cast harmonised beautifully together.
Choreographically the whole show moves very well. Some late entrances and slow exits do effect the pace, and the set will block notational projections from audience seated on the sides, but otherwise looks great and is multi-functional.
The orchestra under the musical direction of Anthony Hubmayer played solidly, with only a few issues during more staccato movements where synchronization issues were clearer. Early in the show there was some pitch concerns in the wind section and on some strings, but this improved as the show rolled on.
For a school production this show is wonderfully enjoyable, and the overall standard makes it easy to forgive any uneven moments. Bravo to Scotch College and the production team.