The first time I saw Les Mis was September 2015 during the Broadway revival. Throughout that performance, I remember having a lot of trouble following the story. Since then, I’ve become quite familiar with the film and the music, but I hadn’t gotten a chance to see a live performance until recently.
Last week, I got to see Les Mis in Concert in London at the Gielgud Theatre. This was such an interesting performance. The Sondheim Theater is currently under renovation, and as a result they’re doing Les Misérables in Concert as opposed to the standard musical.
The stage was setup with large stadium seating for the entire cast and orchestra. Cast members would come to the front to perform their sections throughout the show. While a traditional performance would dazzle us with sets, props, and choreography, this show relied almost entirely on vocal talent alone.
The cast delivered; Each singer was incredible. Every so often i’d feel goosebumps running up and down. The real highlight of the show was the ending of Act 1. Red and Black/Do You Hear The People Sing/In My Life/One Day More were performed as an epic piece. It was very much the Jesus of Suburbia of Les Mis.
I didn’t realize until now, the large number of variations there are on this musical. Les Mis was first done in concert for the 10th anniversary of the show. After doing some research, I discovered this is regarded as the best recording of the show to date. This version is also extended compared to the traditional stage recording.
On a related note, this is the first time I’ve really felt like I was able to follow the story without any trouble. Even watching the film, there are so many characters and plot lines, it’s hard to keep track of everything going on. Part of this was certainly that I’ve listened to the soundtrack and seen the film quite a few times, but I think the format of this performance really sealed the deal.
Each actor played exactly one part and took their spot at a microphone when it was their turn to sing. This made it very easy to keep track of everyone and what they were up to. When we shifted story arcs, it was easy to tell because each member of the cast was nicely positioned at a microphone. They were singing directly to the audience, as opposed to acting off of each other.
The ending to the show was almost as epic as the ending of Act 1. Empty Chairs through the Epilogue were again done as a single piece and were beautiful; I found myself bawling my eyes out.
Overall, I loved this performance. The format was so unique, this wasn’t Les Mis the Musical, it was Les Mis the opera. I’d be really interested to see other sing-through musicals performed as concerts; Hamilton would be a great candidate.
I wish I could see it again, but I’ll have to settle for the traditional performance next time I’m in London.