Pupils at Kimbolton School undertook to perform a production of Les Miserables on February 13/14/15 which was not without is trials and tribulations, according to reviewer Michael Williamson.
This was an ambitious undertaking, but one that the school took well within its stride. It is always rash to underestimate school productions and to reduce expectations but the detailed work and thought that had obviously gone into this event was impressive to say the least. Every detail had been considered and, on the odd occasion when it became necessary to amend some technical challenge that might have been included on the West End stage, the overall presentation was not diminished in any way. The large cast were well-disciplined and focussed and the pace never faltered. A magnificent team effort.
On the evening that I attended, a power cut took place. There is the old story of the critic who writes the review without attending the venue and then finds that the theatre had burnt down. This was a different experience. The audience obviously sympathised with the difficulties being experienced by the cast and crew and were eager to show their support. However, when some of the technical effects had to be diluted in the second half, it gave us an opportunity to see the complete professionalism of the whole company.
It was clear that everything had been choreographed perfectly and while everybody remained fully in character belief in the action was never compromised. It is during sudden emergencies of this kind that a company show their truth worth and ability and everybody concerned deserves sincere congratulation.
The split-level multi-purpose acting area provided everything necessary and the relatively simple staging focussed attention on the performances, all of which were excellent.
In such a closely-knit team effort, where small moments of brilliance could be observed throughout in the most unexpected places, it always seems slightly inappropriate to draw attention to anybody. However, some of the performances were really outstanding. Fraser Ellson was a thoughtful and sympathetic Valjean, displaying a fine voice. His sincere and rather low-key approach was particularly effective when contrasted with Ben Rice as a magnificent Javert. Ben has a very strong and commanding voice and both his major numbers were great vocal triumphs. He rose to the considerable challenge of the part and made the character totally believable.
In a complete contrast, Luke Wilson and Lydia Carter, were perfectly paired as the notorious (but appealing) Thenadiers. Providing much of the required humour and light relief in the show, they rose to the occasion with great skill and confidence. They lifted every scene that they appeared in and were a welcome relief to the more serious aspects of the plot. Luke is a born performer and excels in everything that he attempts. He always loses himself totally in the character and is a joy to watch. Similarly, Lydia fully exploited every nuance of the complex personality of Mme Thenadier with great success. A memorable partnership.
As the lovers, Sadie King and Dom Holdaway were thoroughly believable and performed well. Sadie has a lovely voice and this contrasted nicely with the beautiful solo by Eva Spall as the young Cosette. Emily Sparkes was a charmingly vulnerable and moving Fantine and Charlie McLellan an appropriately cheeky Gavroche. Led by Ilya Semple as a consistently strong Enjolras, the revolutionary students presented another excellent example of teamsmanship and worked extremely well together. There were many really effective moments between them and each contributed something unique.
Finally, a word of sincere praise for Fix Choy Winters as Eponine. This can be a very difficult part to get just right and Fix managed to achieve just the right balance. Her scenes with Dom as Marius were especially moving. Well done.
The orchestra, although hidden away, made a major contribution to the entire show which was a great credit to both the School and all the many participants on stage and behind the scenes. This was one of the best productions that I have seen this year and I am sure that many of those involved will go on to achieve great things in the future. Congratulations.