Les Miserables reboot to target younger audience
Modernised reboot of iconic musical features live animation backdrop of Victor Hugo's paintings
It's been 20 years since world-famous musical Les Miserables was last staged in Singapore.
Come May, we'll get to hear the people sing again, as the much-hyped modernised version makes its way to town.
Created in 2010 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the West End hit musical, the reboot is specially crafted to suit a younger generation that most likely first watched the star-studded 2012 Hollywood movie adaptation starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe.
Set in early 19th-century France, Les Miserables the musical is based on a novel by Victor Hugo, which tells the story of ex-convict Jean Valjean.
Valjean breaks his parole and is relentlessly tracked down by police inspector Javert. Along the way, Valjean and a group of idealists are caught up in a revolution.
The New Paper was invited to The Theatre at Solaire in Manila, for a backstage tour where we met some of the principal cast and heads of the show's creative departments.
English actor Earl Carpenter, 45, who plays Javert, said Les Miserables the movie put the musical in front of an audience that doesn't always go to the theatre.
"It (grossed) over US$400 million (S$540 million) worldwide and created an interest. So obviously, it made an impact. But more importantly, it introduced the musical to a younger audience," he said.
The re-imagined production combines a live animation backdrop of Hugo's paintings with the realism of the set.
ALL IN THE DETAILS: (Above) Ms Donovan fixing the prop rifles before a rehearsal. PHOTOS: MATTHEW MURPHY
British producer and stage musical stalwart Cameron Mackintosh strategically angled the set so that the audience's perspective of the two mediums will merge into one.
ALL IN THE DETAILS: (Above) Ms Connie Dyson, head of wigs and make-up, styles the Fantine's wig, which costs A$15,000 (S$15,500). PHOTOS: MATTHEW MURPHY
The use of video screen projection also creates a fantastic illusion of depth and movement.
Carpenter said: "Victor Hugo is all around us, it's fascinating to have that influence more so than in the original."
Expect "Disney magic" too, he added. In one of the musical numbers, Javert falls seamlessly into the animation.
Sound technology has advanced too - surround sound effects include "bullets" whizzing past your ears.
Australian actor Simon Gleeson, 39, who plays Valjean, said: "Audiences are expecting that kind of technical abilities because we get it in films all the time. I think the way we perform is different too. It's a lot more aggressive and gritty than the original production."
The period musical also requires an army of back-room staff members to take care of the props, wardrobe, hair and make-up.
There are about 40 individual pieces of clothing for each performer.
Ms Lily Donovan, head of props, prepares them to the smallest detail, like ensuring the wedding invitation cards for one scene are all handwritten.
The tragic character of impoverished prostitute Fantine sports a wig that costs A$15,000.
Gleeson said the musical's popularity makes for interesting experiences.
"Sometimes, I will stop and take a little bit longer to sing something, but I can hear someone sing already down there. That's one of the joys.
"I don't know whether Singapore audiences will sing along. We'll find out!"
WHAT: Cameron Mackintosh's Les Miserables
WHERE: Esplanade Theatre
WHEN: May 31 to July 17
TICKETS: $58 to $228 from Sistic (www.sistic.com.sg or 6348-5555)