Les Misérables

20th to 24th February 2024

Alain Boublil & Claude-Michel Schonberg | Sutton Coldfield Town Hall | Directed by Georgia Young

Revolution is in the air at Sutton Coldfield’s Town Hall. Do you hear the people sing?

Musicals don’t come more famous than Boublil and Schonberg’s redemption story of Jean Valjean, the convict turned mayor at the centre of this epic story set in early 19th century revolutionary France. It’s a challenge for any company, requiring a huge cast, extravagant sets and containing some of the most famous songs in musical theatre. Sutton Coldfield Musical Youth Theatre Company absolutely smash it in this ambitiously staged production which had the opening-night audience on their feet for a richly deserved standing ovation.

Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, ‘Les Mis’ is a theatre institution. The show has been seen by over 130 million people in 53 countries around the world in 22 languages. The London production has been running since 1985. Millions of people have seen it more than once. It is familiar and loved, which is wonderful, but means that audiences have high expectations. Director Georgia Young has worked wonders with her talented young cast, exceeding expectations and showcasing incredible local talent. I have never been prouder to live in Sutton Coldfield.

Holding the show together, Ethan Bowley combines acting talent with a powerful voice in the central role of Jean Valjean. ‘Who Am I?’ and ‘Bring Him Home’ are tender and there is a real sense of rivalry with Ethan James’ Inspector Javert who nails the beautiful ‘Stars’. Anamae Parkes is moving as the downtrodden Fantine, forced to sell her hair to support her illegitimate child Cosette. The iconic ‘I Dreamed and Dream’ is sung beautifully.

Toby Foetu-Foster is perfectly cast as Marius, the passionate student revolutionary who falls in love with Cosette. There is an effortless quality to his voice: the haunting ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’ is a highlight. Neve Matthews’ Cosette is wilful and strong and Becky Hanratty brings a pained sadness to the role of Eponine. ‘A Heart Full of Love’ brings all three together in a powerful evocation of love lost and won.

In the roles of Thenardier and Madame Thenardier, the thieving inn-keeper and his unscrupulous wife, Oscar Ralley and Ella Clarke are perfect partners in crime. They bring welcome comic relief but also capture the despicable wickedness of these opportunistic characters. ‘Master of the House’ is an audience favourite and is bang on the money here.

The principal cast is completed in style by Ben White’s stirring Enjolras, Ewan Tall’s cheeky Gavroche and Myleigh Davies’ sweet young Cosette.

Any production of Les Misérables, however, relies on the strength of the whole cast and the SCMYTC ensemble combines acting and vocal talent to bring this production to life. The singing is consistently strong thanks to musical director Emily Beaman and Esme Wade’s choreography is slick throughout. Full company numbers, most memorably ‘One Day More’ and the rousing finale ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’ really do raise the roof.

Theatre, particularly musical theatre, has an incredible power to unite. What a thrill to see such incredible local talent on the stage of our Town Hall. Sutton Coldfield should be proud. Vive la révolution!

‘Les Misérables’ is playing at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall from 20th to 24th February 2024.