Today, I decided to talk about the three different production I saw of Les Mis. I loved all three productions and because each had a different cast, I formed different opinions about the cast member.
CPCC was the first time I saw the stage show. This is at a community college and was back in 2013. I saw this production three times because I saw it once with my family and twice as an usher. Then in 2015, I went to England and got to see Les Mis in the West End. Now two years later from the West End production, I saw the show in Greenville. First up I am going to talk about the cast, but to be honest, some cast members from some of these productions, I don’t quite remember if I loved them or not.
Jean Valjean- my CPCC one, Adam Bayjou as an understudy in the West End, and Nick Cartell in Greenville were all incredible as Jean Valjean. I don’t fully remember why I loved my community college Valjean, but I still loved him. The fact that Adam was an understudy and was so good really says something. I truly saw Jean Valjean’s transformation through him. His voice was very harsh up until the end of “What Have I Done” and then it changed. It actually is his “What Have I Done” that I remembered the most, but I still remember loving him throughout the entire show. Nick Cartell, who I just saw, was another Jean Valjean I fell in love with. His version of “Bring Him Home” was quiet enough to sound like a prayer and strong enough for what the scene required. So between all three, it can be hard of who I loved the most, but Adam and Nick impressed me the most.
“I Dreamed a Dream”
Javert- okay, I know exactly of these Javerts who was my favorite. I honestly don’t remember the CPCC Javert at all. I feel like I couldn’t feel anything for that Javert. Josh Davis was my Javert in Greenville and I felt like he had the right voice for Javert, but something just felt off so the dynamic between Jean Valjean and Javert was a bit off. My favorite Javert was Jeremy Secomb in the West End. Jeremy was actually the first Javert that I actually felt something for, which is saying something because I don’t like Javert. So the West End dynamic between Jean Valjean and Javert was the strongest.
Fantine-my CPCC Fantine was one of my favorite actors in that production. I do remember being moved during “I Dreamed a Dream” and her death scene. In the West End, Rachelle Ann Go was my Fantine and with her I non-stop cried during her entire story and her Fantine was the most desperate out of all three. Melissa Mitchell, my Greenville Fantine, portrayed Fantine as less desperate and more naive and was quiet enough during her death scene to be heard in the balcony, which was where I was sitting. I think Melissa and Rachel each showed a different side of Fantine so each portrayal worked.
Monsieur and Madame Thenardier- okay, I just don’t remember how I felt about my CPCC Thenardiers. I do remember in the West End that Kathy Secombe and Phil Daniels were the funniest of all the Thenardiers and Phil was able to bring out the despicable side of Thenardier. Allison Guann and J. Anthony. Crane also were hilarious, but not as funny as my West End batch.
Cosette- well, I don’t exactly remember my CPCC Cosette. Zoe Doano was my West End Cosette and I have bit of the same problem not fully remembering this one either, which I wish I did remember. Jillian Butler was my Greenville Cosette and she had such a beautiful soprano voice and matched well with Joshua Grosso’s Marius.
Picture below is from my CPCC production.
Marius-hmm, what was my CPCC Marius like? That is something I do not remember. My West End Marius was Rob Houchen. The main scene I remember him in is right after “A Little Fall of Rain” and out of all three Marius’, he was the most heartbroken after Eponine’s death. But between Rob’s Marius and Joshua Grosso’s Marius, it is hard to say which one I loved the most. Joshua Grosso was my Greenville Marius and he was so awkward in act I, which worked fairly well during “A Heart Full of Love”. He worked well with Talia’s Eponine during “A Little Fall of Rain” and he did sound heartbroken after “A Little Fall of Rain”. At the end, I remember him taking a while till he could end the song, but the way he said “grow” was heartbreaking to hear. Out of all three, I also remember his “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” the most. His version was so heartbreaking and I think it helped that there were candles on the floor and the students came out and held them and eventually blow them out. That was almost the same staging as my CPCC staging, but don’t remember how that Marius was at all.
Eponine-out of all three, I know who needed the most improvement. That was my CPCC Eponine, but she still was a solid Eponine, but not amazing like the other two. She was solid during both “On My Own” and “A Little Fall of Rain”. Okay between the West End Eponine and the Greenville Eponine, it is hard to say who I loved the most because I loved each for different reasons. I saw Carrie Hope Fletcher as Eponine in the West End and she really impressed me. Her version of “On My Own” introduced me to an emotion I never saw in Eponine and that was anger so she made the role her own. I remember believing that she was shot right after she collapsed, which was right after the gun shot and I do remember believing she was dying when she started singing the song as well. Then there is Talia Simone Robinson’s version of Eponine, who was an understudy. Talia was someone I remember all of her portrayal. She was very playful and flirty around Marius. I was able to pick up on the heartbreak she was feeling of Marius not loving her back. When it comes to “A Little Fall of Rain”, she was so quiet and throughout the entire song, I knew she was dying and it was this “Little Fall of Rain” that I remember the most. Her nonverbals and different sounds made me believe in the scenes. It still is hard to decide who was better when it comes to Eponine: Talia or Carrie because I really loved both girls.
Enjolras- the CPCC Enjolras, Bradley Jaden, and Mark Shingledecker were I think equally passionate about the uprising. But the CPCC one was the hardest to understand since his accent was so thick that it was hard to understand what he was saying. About Bradley and Matt, I feel like I loved them equally and had the revolutionary fervor that you need to see in an Enjolras and the feeling of being a strong leader.
Young Cosette- I remember that Young Cosette at CPCC and Greenville had such a beautiful voice. Sophie Knapp was my Greenville Young Cosette. My West End Cosette was also impressive and was scared around Madame and saw that she was a bit nervous around Valjean, but quickly learned to trust him. I loved each of this little Cosettes.
The ensemble- when it comes to the ensemble, all three casts were impressive. I loved the ensemble in the West End and Greenville the most. Those who made up the students in the West End had such a strong love for each other and showed their hope for the rebellion and showed that they knew they most likely were going to die in the rebellion. The Greenville group of students also had the brotherly love. The rest of the ensemble of the West End and Greenville were really strong and had this incredible epic nature.
So I have different opinions about the leads and ensemble. However, the West End cast will always be special to me since it was my dream to see Les Mis in the West End.
Now on to the staging.
CPCC staging- I wish I remembered more about this staging, but I do remember the candles during “Empty at Empty Tables” and that is the main staging I remember.
The West End had the most simple staging and loved the use of the revolved to change sets and loved how during the barricade after “On My Own”, that the two sides, which are used for different things throughout the show, went up and down and interlocked to form the barricade.
But with the Greenville staging, it was the brand new 25th anniversary production and the staging was much more complex and helped add to the complexity of Les Mis. Its projections in the back and the different paintings in the backdrop were impressive because sometimes they moved. This Greenville set always seemed to be moving. During the second “Look Down”, different areas were shown as different sections opened up as the song continued. Even the sound system was incredible since you literally could hear bullets hit the back of the theatre. The one thing I wish this staging did was put the years up as the show continued, which is something the West End production did. Since I was very familiar with the show, I knew when time changed, but not having the years might be confusing with those who have never seen it. I think both the West End and the Greenville staging was both incredible, but just for different reasons.
CPCC was a phenomenal production. The West End production was epic and extremely powerful. The Greenville production showed different sides of Les Mis that I have never seen before and was epic and extremely powerful. So between the West End and Greenville, I cannot really say which one was better since the staging and the way the actors portrayed the characters were different.