Les Mis at the Capitol

What a weekend! The Australian production of Les Misérables was simply phenomenal. I mean, how do you even start to describe the remarkable experience, the amazing production, the brilliant music, and just the magnificent performance of the Aussie cast. It is really “Les Mis like you’ve never seen it before.

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I’ve always believed that amongst the enormous conglomeration of musicals on and off Broadway, and in different parts of the world, Les Mis has the one of the most beautifully written music that is perfectly tied up with its poignant, strident libretto. I don’t know the complete history of how it’s formed and all that. But gosh, the music has outlived its time, and has remained just as dynamic and powerful as it’s always been.

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It was last Saturday when I went to see a matinee of Les Mis. It was hard to describe how I felt hearing the iconic songs live for the very first time! “Look Down”, “Do You Hear the People Sing?” and “One Day More” surely sent chills down my spine. “Lovely Ladies” was just so raw and honest. “Castle on a Cloud” was so much more moving as I expected. “Master of the House” was an absolute shivoo. The big diva solos, “I Dreamed a Dream” and “On My Own” took me to an astonishing journey. It was all tasteful. It was all stirring.

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Because this is just mandatory.

This is not a review of the play because honestly, I don’t know how to properly write one for stage plays as breathtaking as that! But I just really need to note a few things:

  • Brilliant production. And this entails everything visual pretty much—stage, overall design, digital technologies, lighting, props, costumes. It just all worked so beautifully together. What an efficient and impressive use of the theatre space. One of the many highlights was Javert’s suicide scene, where the LED screen basically worked the magic there, and made him look like he’s falling into a huge body of water until it ate him up. What they did took me by surprise. You gotta see it for yourself!
  • Amazing music and sound properties. Acoustics were great in that theatre. Cues were “on point”. The overall sound was satisfying. I wish I was able to sit near the orchestra pit (or any spot where the muso’s were more visible), so I could just watch them in awe. Also, the war sound effects were pretty good and actually realistic—it would give me a sudden jolt a few times.
  • The cast members were exceptional. They did not disappoint!
  • Simon Gleeson (playing Jean Valjean) was just redoubtable. Geez, this guy. His character was so alive and true from the very start. He was the cornerstone of this show. 24601 was solid.
  • Hayden Tee (playing Javert) was just so dang scary—he embodies the word “sinister.” His presence was imperative, and he was able to masterfully display authority and eminence the character requires.
  • Zoe Gertz (playing Fantine) is to be admired by the authenticity of her character and her amazing vocal prowess. She was just 100%. The tragedy in Fantine’s grief-stricken life, the desperation, as well as the change she had to experience were well conveyed all throughout the first act.
  • I felt so privileged to watch Trevor Ashley and Lara Mulcahy (playing Monsieur Thénardier and Madame Thénardier). They were perhaps the “life of the party.” They gave a sturdy and effective comic relief from the tragic nature of the story. They embodied dynamism and spontaneity from the start until the end.
  • And of course Chloe Zuel (playing Eponine), Emily Langridge (playing Cosette), Euan Doidge (playing Marius), Zoy Frangos (playing Enjolras) who played such iconic roles were just fantastic! I particularly liked Euan’s vocal timbre that cautiously depicts the subdued innocence in Marius’ character; and Chloe’s soulful take on Eponine. Importantly, the Barricade people were plain awesome!

I wish I could comment on every single cast member. More importantly, I seriously wish that I was better at describing or evaluating things. I’ll make a real theatre review once I’ve learned how to write one up. Nevertheless, this is truly a blockbuster theatrical production! Go see it if you haven’t! It closes this October. Get your tickets here.

Here are some more photos I took home that day. No photography and/or video recording were allowed during the show as expected.

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Rie Manaloto

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It is essential for avid theatre goers to actually purchase the souvenir program especially if it’s the big-aff productions.

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One with the Barricade folks!

One with the Barricade folks!

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This is Jordan from Capitol. He thought we'd fancy a selfie. He's a really cool guy.

This is Jordan from Capitol. He thought we’d fancy a selfie. He’s a really cool guy.

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Again, this is mandatory.

Again, this is mandatory.

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Rie Manaloto

Rie Manaloto

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R.

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#SalongaDownUnder2015


All right.
 I know. I get it. It might be a little too late to be posting about this momentous event. The past couple of weeks have been really busy and demanding on my end. But I thought I’d do it anyway. No dramas.

So, Lea Salonga was in Sydney. (Now I’m thinking I should’ve ended that with an exclamation point). I find it hard to put into words how amazing this encounter was with the ineffable international Broadway star.

I mean, she’s world-renowned and all that. Everybody knows her, and only has the best things to say about her. But seriously, it feels like the right words have not been invented yet to adequately and justifiably describe her artistry and musicality. And I’m not exaggerating.

Hence, I can already tell that this entry will not look like my usual concert “reflections” (not reviews) I normally post on the Artiste.

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Basically, it is one of my biggest dream come true. Her singing has always had an enormous impact on me, which up to this day I still struggle to explain.

Her formidable presence, overpowering charisma, and divine vocal prowess just got me. She has knocked me dead in all her glory. If one had ever experienced “eargasm” (or if that were possible in this life and time), I’d say that it’s similar to what I went through during her concert a couple of Saturday’s ago at Sydney Town Hall.

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I won’t go into detail anymore. But in essence, the place was packed. She had a live band (of course) headed by Larry Yurman—this guy’s incredible. I should also commend his band for doing a marvellous job (The double bass is the blue frosting on the cake for me!). Lea dubbed them as his “most handsome” musical crew in the progression of her tour.

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Lea had a very rich and generous repertoire that includes her gravity-defying renditions of:
  • Broadway stunners (“I’d Give My Life For You” from Miss Saigon, “Wondering” from The Bridges of Madison County, “Still Hurting” from The Last Five Years, “For Good” from Wicked, “Back to Before” from RagtimeLes Miz hits, which are mentioned later in the blogpost)
  • Disney classics (“Reflection” from Mulan, “A Whole New World” from Aladdin)
  • Filipino hits (“Nais Ko” by Ryan Cayabyab, “Hahanapin Ko” by Jose Mari Chan)
  • Tasteful jazz tunes (they’re all mentioned later in the blogpost)
  • Historically significant piece, “Greatest Love Of All” by Whitney Houston
  • Riveting renditions of Bruno Mars smashers (“Grenade” and “Locked Out of Heaven”)

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To some degree, it was a jazz-infused night. Lea started with an old Broadway hit that had also been popularised by Nina Simone, “Feeling Good”,  followed by another jazz hit, “You and the Night and the Music”. Lea also did a Nat King Cole classic, “On the Street Where You Live” to start Act 2. My favourite of them all was “He Touched Me”, which I believe is a Barbra Streisand original. That one was just intoxicating.

Now, I am in awe of Lea’s ability to turn a typical jazz song into something extraspecial. Her musical theatre sound and stylistic expression (dynamics, articulation, etc) blend so well with the rudiments of the jazz ensemble, not to mention the proper dose of theatricality. Thus, a colourful and flavourful emulsion of styles and sounds.

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The highlights of the night was when she sang two of her Les Miz pieces (yes, she owns them), “On My Own” and “I Dreamed A Dream” by which she gained a thundering ovation from the audience. The characters that convey the two songs (Éponine and Fantine) were relived during that night. It was crazy.

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Went with my awesome friend, Gerielle. Photo by Darryl O'Brien

Went with my awesome friend, Gerielle. Photo by Darryl O’Brien

I did say I wouldn’t go into so much detail, but what the heck. It was hard to keep in line. But here’s a mini gallery of my shots. It sucks that camera flash was not allowed in the concert, and my camera takes better shots in that particular setting when the flash is activated. I tried my best to still get good ones.

 

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I’ll conclude by reposting my actual Facebook status on the night of the concert which I posted during the interlude:

Lea Salonga. I can’t even. I just. She’s a freaking. Monster. A beautiful. Monster.

R.

Éponine

Chilling on Pinterest and I was surprised to find my sketch from not more than 2 years ago. It’s a fan art I submitted to the Les Miserables page, which gained some public attention. Find it here.

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A very simple, minimalist, designer’s sheet-inspired digital watercolour art. (That line has used at least 5 adjectives)

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Screen-capped from the Les Mis page. All in all the post gained more than 1K ‘likes.’ Not that ‘likes’ still matter.

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Here’s the second artwork that didn’t make it to the page.

Éponine by Rie Manaloto

R.