WELL. I have thoughts, most of the very positive.
Most interesting to note was that act II was done in concert form because the barricades had broken during the matinee. That however, didn't tarnish what was a beautifully emotional performance. (I got up after Act II ended and just said to my parents "god, I love this show")
One thing I noticed was just how much more I was enjoying Paul Wilkins as Marius. He wasn't anywhere near as friendly with Lauren Solely's Éponine as he was with Hollie O'Donoghue's, and for me that worked. He also had more moments that made me go 'yep, that's Marius alright'. I also like his voice more now, it seems far more relaxed and smooth now.
Hyoie O'Grady very pleasantly surprised me. Obviously I knew he had huge boots to fill, and actually he was pretty good, especially since he's been in the role less than a month. Physically he fits the character to a T, especially in some of the more dramatically lit moments in Act II where I think I actually gasped. There were moments here and there where he was truly Enjolraic and it was *awesome*. On the other hand, there was one moment in particular that was so un-Enjolraic it was jarring; in Drink With Me after the standard e/R hug he went straight over and got all cuddly with one of the women at the barricade, which utterly threw me off because Enjolras? With women? Ehhh? Costuming note: they've ditched the patterned waistcoat in ABC Cafe for a plain black one, which I think is much better suited both to his looks and the character. it also makes a much stronger contrast in One Day More when he comes on in The Red Vest. He's very young and looks it, I reckon since he's graduating MATA this year he's likely only about 22-23, yet he was *so* much better than the last recent-graduate enjolras we've had, that being Michael Colbourne back in 2014, who was a definite 'Meh-jolras'.
Cover Fantine Alice Ellen Wright was on yesterday, and considering she'd made her Fantine debut the day before, she was pretty great. Her voice had a very light timbre to it, which is something I enjoy in Fantines, even though it's a mezzo part with the lowest female notes in the show. She reacted to Cosette when she and Marius ran in during the epilogue, which was a really nice detail that showed she had really thought about the character. It's the only time Cosette and Fantine are actually on stage together, and therefore it's Fantine's only opportunity to remind the audience of the love for her daughter that kept her alive for so long in Act I. I felt that Alice handled this well. Not my favourite Fantine ever, but she was certainly a nice one.
Jeremy Secomb as Javert is as much of a beast from when I last saw him back in September last year, and oh how nice it was to have an actual Javert-like Javert instead of whatever the hell Hayden Tee had going on. Him and Killian made a very nice duo, and for the first time in three years the "UST! UST!" chant was back in my head which I see as a very good thing, as for me it shows the JVJ and Javert actors are working off each other well. Because of the reduced staging in Act II, when the time came for the suicide, Jeremy walked straight up to the orchestra pit and it looked like he was about to topple off.
Now, Killian Donnelly as Jean Valjean. It surprises no one that Killian is one of my favourite west end performers period; I've seen him as Raoul in Phantom, Charlie in Kinky Boots and Tony in Billy Elliot and have been desperate to see him in les mis since I was a tiny little 11 year old watching the 25th anniversary concert. Let's just say, I had high expectations and he did not disappoint at all. So much emotional detail absolutely everywhere. I half forgot I was watching Killian-as-Valjean at some points. The man has killer pipes, especially the sustained B natural in Who Am I and the final note of Bring Him Home. BHH itself had me in tears, not being helped by the fact that he knelt and crossed himself (correctly, may I add!) signifying his relationship with God, which made me Catholic backside incredibly emotional. Oh, and his interactions with Little Cosette were so adorable! And with big Cosette too, for that matter. I've seen Valjeans who seem emotionally distant from Cosette before, so it was good to see a duo who genuinely seemed like father and daughter.
The ensemble are BRILL. So much adlibbing, everything seemed so natural and real. Speak all shoutout to Montparnasse/Bahorel who was a little ball of energy, in character for both of them (Especially Bahorel, I thought he was actually going to start tearing up the cobbles on the stage a team one point), and gets the credit for best ad-lib of the night during ABC Cafe, "Marius, grow up, this is more important than girls." Factory girl was especially bitchy, and Master of the House was actually funny. Not because of Steven Meo as thenardier though.
The kids were very, very good. Little Cosette, bless her heart, was so sweet. And she was acting! Yes! There was a bit in Waltz of Treachery where she clung on to Killian for dear life, and you could tell just how terrified she was of her two 'guardians'. Gavroche was awesome, actually singing on key and not being annoying at all. He coped with the act II changes very well too, even if his death fell looked a bit awkward.
Lauren Solely as Éponine was alright, I suppose. Got some Éponine vibes from her, but she kept switching from head to chest to mixed rather messily. I like her more than Hollie, but not as much Eva or Melissa. She had a habit of cutting phrases short and rushing over lines, particularly in the beginning of On My Own, which irritated me. Her interactions with Thenardier's gang were the highlight, especially with Montparnasse. I will always appreciate a good Éponine and Montparnasse duo. What got me was that it didn't need really seem like she really cared much for Marius at all, I just wasn't very convinced. She also shouted a few lines which I just find jarring.
Charlotte Kennedy again, hasn't changed much from April. She sings on consonants, had a very uncontrolled and wobbly vibrato and acted for the most part very petulant and childish in In My Life. I used to quite like her, but yesterday I was bored.
Madame Thenardier, whose name I can't remember, showed a lot of promise, especially in scenes with Little Cosette where she was just plain nasty, but eventually she succumbed to going for the laughs. She's separate from Thenardier himself as she was much more tolerable than he was.
This is basically going to be about just how freaking annoying Steven Meo was as Thenardier. You wouldn't know he's supposed to be an evil slimy git at all, he played absolutely every single line for laughs and just...ugh! No! Do you even know your character at all? I wish he could have been bland and forgettable, but nope, he was obnoxious, very crude, did adlibs that weren't funny, and came across as just very, very stupid. Why can't we have a Thenardier who is actually *evil* with some moments of dark humour for once?
I'm the one to shout "Down with Polignac!"