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The scene was set, an open stage, and then we were hit by the onslaught of prisoners moving through the audience singing the first number, accompanied by the clink of their chains, and our introduction to Jean Valjean played by George Watkins.

From the first moment we were aware of not only the magnificent voice of this young man, but the emotion and understanding behind the character. Whilst later in the production his rendition of Bring Me Home was exciting – I have written ‘WOW’ as my comment.  It was obvious that George had worked hard to make this a complete contrast to everything else that had gone before - it was quiet, full of emotion and each sound was pure – beautiful.

George was matched though by Joshua Pelligrini as Javert – great strength and ruthlessness in his voice and portrayal – I found it totally amazing that this young man had not performed in a musical before.  His suicide was very well done.

The set was very minimal – as is required, but good and solid, with excellent lighting and good effects.

Casey Bird gave us a quietly touching Fantine – I thought she was stronger in the last scene, and her death scene was very emotive.

Harry Shore gave good characterisation to both the Foreman and Grantaire – I liked the way he looked and used his voice and face.  He was there, you noticed him, but he was not intrusive when he wasn’t centre stage.

Kelan Davis was a very strong Enjolras – this young man has stage presence and passion, you really wanted to get up there and join his gang.

I liked the gentleness of Richard Edwards Marius – and the relationship between Richard and Rachel Thomas as Cosette.  Rachel was very quiet at first, but she got stronger as the production progressed.

James Penniston as Thenardier and Zoe Harbour as Madame Thenardier were a well-matched and highly amusing couple – with the right amount of sordidness in their characters to make an excellent contrast between them and the other characters.  James and Zoe both have a good command of stagecraft.

Alicia Lawrence was a wistful Young Cosette, who sang her song very well.  I also liked Lauren Seres as the Young Eponine – she gave the character the spiteful edge it needed.  George Wright was a cheeky Gavroche the night I was there.

Pippa Taylor was a strong Eponine – and her version of On My Own was very expressive and poignant.  She maintained her portrayal throughout, even at the end when she appeared as a ghost with Fantine.

The remainder of the Ensemble and minor principals all added much to the overall execution of a strong and stirring production.  If I have one criticism it would be that the acting suffered slightly in some cases, as the accent was definitely on the musical side of things.

Dan Cowtan did an excellent job with the youngsters, who all performed to an extremely high standard, and the band he put together sounded good – it evoked the feel of the period.

Throughout the whole performance it was difficult to remember that these are young people – the standard and quality of performance was excellent, and I came away feeling uplifted and very glad that I am able to see and report on such well-studied pieces.  It is a joy to me – and HHTC Youth gets better and better.

A resounding ‘well done’ to everyone concerned.

Nova Horley

Hemel Hempstead Theatre Company - Youth Group

LES MISERABLES” review date: 19TH Jan 2012

Boxmoor Playhouse

Director & MD:  Dan Cowtan


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