As most of you know, I came from the province. Musicals and plays of known titles are really scarce, heck, they don’t really exist outside of school. And it sucks btw because I’m the kind of person who’s into arts even if I’m not really that artsy – music, literature, theater – name it, I’ll love it. So I was stuck in Legazpi hopelessly wishing for a time to come when I’ll be able to watch at least one play in Manila.
When I came here to Manila in 2014, I kept on wishing that somehow, I can watch a musical/play and finally cross that out of my bucketlist. On my first few months, there were plays here and there, nothing grand though, that appeared on my Facebook feed and I wanted to watch them but I was just too unfamiliar with the places and I didn’t really get a hold of managing my money well then. So I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t my time to watch any musical/play yet.
When I learned that Les Miserables was coming to Manila, I could not be more excited. You see, Les Miserables was a HUUUGE part of my last two years in college (well, the other year was actually just for finishing our thesis and waiting for the graduation ceremony). 2012 was the year Les Miserables the movie was shown and I fell in love with it more. I’ve known the story in highschool and with the great storyline that it has, there was no doubt, I told myself, that if I saw it live in any form, I would be more smitten with it. And boy, wasn’t I wrong. I was replaying the original soundtrack of the movie for months straight. I belted out Fantine’s I Dreamed a Dream and Eponine’s On My Own whenever I had the chance, because let’s face it guys, those two songs had so much feelings written all over them. Also, the songs helped me in coping up with the ordeal I went through before graduating. So I tweeted in all caps when I found out Les Miserables was coming to Manila, drowned myself constantly with the OST (thanks a looot, Spotify!), and shared videos, articles, music across all my social media accounts.
I barraged my boyfriend with messages back in October last year when I found out there was a sale for the tickets. It was only 10% off but it was still a discount! I got us tickets in the C Reserve section because as much as I wanted to buy VIP, I just had more important things I needed my money for (wow, Rej, adulting at its finest #prioritiesss).
Well, enough about the lengthy introduction and backstory (yes, that was only an intro).
March 19 came like it was just too fast. I didn’t really feel I had to wait so long because I listened to the OST almost everyday, most especially the week before the show. So we went to the The Theater at Solaire and waited for the show to start (we bought tickets for the 2:30 PM show). I was too excited that I forgot to take photos before the show started (the only photos I have are the ones included in the post, I’m dead serious) and of course, we all know taking photos and videos during the show isn’t allowed.
The show started exactly at 2:30PM. The Principal Cast for the said show were as follows:
- Jean Valjean – Simon Gleeson
- Javert – Earl Carpenter
- Fantine – Rachelle Ann Go
- Madam Thenardier – Helen Walsh
- Thenardier – Cameron Blakely
- Eponine – Kerrie Anne Greenland
- Cosette – Holly-Anne Hull
- Enjolras – Nigel Huckle
- Marius – Paul Wilkins
- Gavroche – Sebastian Witt
- Little Cosette – Chloe De Los Santos
When the first few notes of the music played, I felt goosebumps. No, I’m not kidding. If I’m being so OA to you, then there’s no point explaining because you just won’t understand. It was everything I imagined and more. I came to the conclusion that I got my money’s worth in the first act alone.
Simon Gleeson is just so good as Jean Valjean. Up until now, I can’t find the right words to describe him and his performance. His voice is so powerful so when he sings, you can’t help but give your full attention to him.
Earl Carpenter’s portrayal of Javert made me like his character. For years, I’ve despised Javert but this time, I saw a different perspective of him. I mean, he was only doing his job, right? And all along I thought him to be the villain. His rendition of Javert’s Suicide made me feel like I was so bad for hating on him for so long!
Rachelle Ann Go. My goodness. Where do I start? The way she sang I Dreamed A Dream almost made me cry. I have to say that she is waaay, waaay better now in singing than when I last heard her sing on TV a few years ago. I know theater is so different from performing in concerts but I just can’t help but notice how much she has improved. It seemed to me that she had more control of her voice now. I’m not really a fan of Rachelle but I’ve always believed in her talent.
Helen Walsh and Cameron Blakely were able to take away the image of Helena Bonham-Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen in my mind which meant that they owned it as the Thenardiers! My boyfriend and I had a good laugh because of their scenes and they really entertained all the people in the audience.
Kerrie Anne Greenland is now one of my favorite Eponines (alongside Lea Salonga and Samantha Barks). I found a video of her on Youtube the other day singing On My Own but it just doesn’t justify how she sounds like live. Waaaay better. I love how she played Eponine. I don’t know if the others saw this, but Kerrie gave a different light to Eponine, for me. I can’t really explain in what way, but that’s what I saw and felt.
Holly-Anne Hull’s Cosette is something to be praised. Paired with Paul Wilkins, these two really made the audience’s hearts melt. You can hear the ooh and aah of some people from the audience which I really found funny! I really loved the way they delivered A Heart Full of Love. Amanda Seyfried’s Cosette voice was too high-pitched for my liking, Holly’s was a right match for me that’s why I have come to like her.
Nigel Huckle was so great as Enjolras. I love Les Miserables’ storyline, but I really wish there was more to Enjolras’ story than being co-leaders and friends with Marius. For me, Nigel was able to add more story to Enjolras with the way he played his character.
Gavroche and Little Cosette played by Sebastian Witt and Chloe De Los Santos respectively made me question myself: why wasn’t I this talented when I was a kid? Sebastian made Gavroche seem more grown up to me though. The movie Gavroche seemed to be a bit more playful. By the way, Chloe is a Fil-Aussie, as far as I’ve read on Facebook and a few articles. The way she sang Castle on a Cloud is worth remembering. She’s really adorable and friendly, she even commented on my Instagram post about watching Les Miserables Manila.
Props and Animation
Aside from the awesome cast, what really amazed me was how they were able to make use of technology in setting up the background. There are actually three scenes that really stood out for me because of the animation:
- The very first scene when the prisoners were singing Look Down and Javert informs Valjean that he’s going to be free. The waves of the sea effect was almost believable!
- When Valjean was trying to save an intensely injured Marius and he dragged him into the sewers. While Valjean was carrying Marius on his back to look for a way out, the scene shifts from one part of the tunnel to another which made it look so realistic!
- Javert’s suicide. How they made him look like he was really falling after he jumped was astounding! It was a well-applauded scene and I almost stood up. The audience, I felt, were contemplating whether to shout at that moment or not.
Although they used animations, the fact that they still chose to stick with having physical backdrops was what added more reality to it, in my opinion. The detail for each prop used was so intricate. I especially loved the scene when they were creating the barricade. The perfectly timed lighting also helped in delivering the mood of each scene.
The music was, as always, remarkable. I read in Theater Fans Manila’s Les Miserables Manila review that “the orchestra was composed of both Filipino and foreign musicians, all led by conductor Laura Tipoki.” I really looked forward as to how the music would sound like. And for some reason, I tried to imagine myself for a few seconds playing for a musical like this. Some dreams don’t really vanish, do they?
My Fave Scenes
Now, as for my favorite scenes from the show:
- ONE DAY MORE. This would have to be the first. I waited for years to finally hear and see this live and I wasn’t disappointed. To say that the performance was good is to deprive that number of the best adjectives possible because it was better than good, it was more than marvelous.
- Fantine’s I Dreamed A Dream. I’m not being biased here, but Rachelle Ann Go was really good in this scene. I closed my eyes for a few seconds in the first part and I was able to feel what Fantine was feeling. She was able to incorporate the right emotions for the song and she had a way of making the audience feel it.
- Valjean’s Soliloquy. This was a scene I didn’t really take too much interest on but when I watched the behind the scenes of the Les Miserables movie days before we watched the show, I learned to appreciate it. When Simon Gleeson sang this part, I just wanted to run towards the stage and hug him and tell him everything’s going to be alright (haha, I’m being so shameless now, but that’s exactly what I felt!).
- The Thenardiers’ Master of the House Production! I was really wondering how they would be able to pull that off but they did, and it was splendid.
- The scene where they all sing Do You Hear the People Sing? This number is one of my top faves in Les Miserables and just to see how they executed the scene live and to hear the beautiful harmony of their voices made me really want to get up and join the revolution!
- The Epilogue. When Valjean was on his deathbed and Cosette was pleading him not to die yet. This scene just gets me every single time.
Mostly, I was just sitting down, trying to calm the hairs in my body because I had goosebumps the entire duration of the show. When the lights dim and the scene changes, I start to calm down, but then the next scene makes it all go crazy again! I was trying hard not to cry all throughout the show, but I’m going to lie if I don’t say that I was on the verge of crying in both acts, most especially in the Epilogue. I actually wiped a tear or two.
This is a dream come true. It’s like Valjean seeing Cosette in her wedding dress, or Fantine dying knowing Little Cosette will be taken care of, or like Marius seeing Cosette for the first time and realizing he’s in love. I don’t know when the Les Miserables Manila hangover will subside. I don’t have plans of making this feeling go away though. I know this post has been too long already but believe me when I say that all my thoughts and sentiments about the show can’t really fit into one post. But I’m going to cut it here.
One thing’s safe to say now, though. One thing so certain: There is no getting over Les Miserables. Ever.
Disclaimer: This is not a review, obviously. I am no expert in musicals. Also, I was not, in any way, compensated for this post. I purchased tickets for the said show and I just wanted to share my thoughts about the show, therefore, all thoughts and opinion are mine.