I NOW get it.

I have seen that film. But only when you experience this wow of a show you see why audiences the world over just cannot get enough of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s Les Misérables.

I am not sure why I didn’t see the show when it started a major tour at Wales Millennium Centre 10 years ago, not to mention the other 24 years that the it has been touring.


But, although late to the party, I am now a fan – but not an uncritical one.

I just don’t get the appeal of Marius or Cosette, one a loved-struck nice bourgeois student boy and the other a slightly simpering pretty thing.

Do I care whether Marius survives the barricades or Cosette gets her nice dream wedding?

South Wales Argus:

The Barricade. Picture: Helen Maybanks

It is also hard to see why lawman Javert is so obsessed with catching parole-breaker Jean Valjean.

Yes, based on the Victor Hugo epic work, it is a tale of natural justice versus the state’s law, sacrifice, redemption and (maybe) salvation, but in such a fast-moving show much of this has to be touched upon as there is not time for character or theme development.

But what does instantly grab you and thrills throughout are the songs that range from gorgeous operatic arias and duets to ensemble numbers, West End-style big hitters and hauntingly beautiful ballads.

Add to that strong set designs, using Victor Hugo paintings, clever use of video to transport us through (and under) 19th century Paris, and the unforgettable barricades scene when light and sound design from Paule Constable and Mick Potter bring drama to the pathos of the wasted young lives.

The cast members are sensational with an equally powerful and gentle Valjean from Dean Chisnall paired with a striking Javert, the most difficult role to get just right, from Nic Greenshields.

South Wales Argus:

The Barricade. Picture: Helen Maybanks

They both delivered those famous arias with edge of seat performances.

The tears were flowing thanks to goose-pimple performances from Katie Hall as Fantine and Frances Mayli McCann as Eponine.

For sweetness and cutesy factor Felix Mosse and Charlei Burn were spot on as Marius and Cosette.

Ian Hughes and Helen Walsh were hilarious as the Thenardiers and the children’s roles were cute and heart-breaking.

Fireworks from the orchestra conducted by Ben Atkinson.

Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday, January 4.

By Mike Smith