Youngsters’ French polish

ASSURED. Stunning. Confident. Some of the choice adjectives that apply to IODS Youth s magical version of Les Miserables at the Kenneth More Theatre last week. There were standing ovations galore for this production, which was as confident, convincing and

ASSURED. Stunning. Confident. Some of the choice adjectives that apply to IODS Youth's magical version of Les Miserables at the Kenneth More Theatre last week.

There were standing ovations galore for this production, which was as confident, convincing and charismatic as you will find anywhere.

Directed with sureness and flair by Jeremy Smith and under the baton of Jamie Bell, the piece was a tribute to the young talents of IODS, none of them over 19 years of age.

This is a tricky piece with convoluted lyrics and a plot that races at quite a lick. And it has tested many an adult audience in its time.


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But IODs showed off a range of talents, both vocal and dramatic, and the show never skipped a beat. What really stood out was the maturity of many of the performances that Jeremy brought out of his players. The orchestra was also made up of teenage musicians and here, too, the performance was confident and slick.

For the three people in Britain who don't know the plot. Jean Valjean is sentenced to five years' jail for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's children, but ends up serving 19 for attempting to escape.

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When he finally gets away from his life of prison labour, he tries to get work, but his reputation precedes him. So, he turns to theft, but is saved by his victim, a bishop, who "buys his soul for God'' by refusing to prosecute him and giving him the stolen candlesticks.

Valjean uses this bounty to make good and is soon a prosperous businessman, who ends up adopting the poor Cosette, the daughter of his former employee Fantine.

During the bloody 1832 working class uprisings in Paris, Valjean saves the life of Cosette's love Marius, and the pair are able to marry. Through these good deeds, Valjean redeems himself.

This sweeping piece, based on the novel by Victor Hugo, is a dramatic inspection of good and evil, class and the law.

Chris Andrews, who was seen recently in South Pacific at the KMT, gave a stunning performance as Valjean, both strong and vulnerable. He has a fine voice and a strong stage presence, and moved the audience to tears with his rendition of the haunting Bring Him Home.

Lee Van Geleen, a young man with a most mature vocal range, was excellently cast as Valjean's nemesis, the menacing Inspector Javert. This was a another performance of real power.

Jessamy Stoddart shone as Cosette and Richard Freeman made a strong, yet sensitive Marius. His rendition of Empty Chairs At Empty Tables was very touching.

Rachael Maguire played Fantine with great flair and assurance and Andrew Bowerman sang up a storm as the rebel leader Enjolras.

I loved Sasha Herst's wistful Eponine, who suffers unrequited love for Marius. Sasha has a sweet, pure voice that she uses like a beautiful instrument and her rendition of On My Own was tremendously affecting.

Grant Leat and Sabrina Martin were terrifically zany as the grasping innkeeper Thenardier and his grotesque wife. Their rendition of the horrible pair was funny and dreadful at the same time.

Mae Marney as the young Cosette performed a beautifully confident Castle On A Cloud.

There was some good moody lighting from Rob Mitchell-Gears and Diane Saddington was responsible for the impressive costumes. Grant Alvarez contributed a simple, but effective set.

I wish I could name all the young performers who put so much into this show. But you know who you are. Take another bow, you were all terrific.

- SUE LEEMAN

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