To the barricades in style

PUBLISHED: 11:31 16 November 2006 | UPDATED: 14:54 12 May 2010

Alan Pooley with, from left, Chris Clark, James Lewis, Tom Higton, Johnny Bertram and Ben Pierson - Pic: Daniel Wilson 1978DW04

Alan Pooley with, from left, Chris Clark, James Lewis, Tom Higton, Johnny Bertram and Ben Pierson - Pic: Daniel Wilson 1978DW04

LES BAKER on The Meridian School s production of Les Miserables THE choice of Les Miserables as this year s production at The Meridian School was, to say the least, ambitious. It could, indeed, be described as revolutionary. From the moment of its openin

LES BAKER on The Meridian School's production of Les Miserables

THE choice of Les Miserables as this year's production at The Meridian School was, to say the least, ambitious.

It could, indeed, be described as revolutionary.

From the moment of its opening scene, here was a production of energy and vitality which captured the attention and, in the end, was quite exceptional.

Musical director Jenny Warburton had described the production as a "challenge": as it was, too, to director Lauren Phillips and production manager Emma Roskilly, and stage manager Sarah Shiel.

It was certainly that - and more. To shape a school production based on one of the most outstanding and well-known musicals in modern times means taking certain risks: especially when there could be a tendency to produce a carbon copy of the original.

This was not the case here. The cast showed complete ownership of the production, not just through enthusiasm but from acting from the heart.

It had taken nine months to put together this version of Les Miserables and in spite of the headaches and heartaches which probably surrounded the endless rehearsals it was both compelling and convincing.

There was a wealth of talent on display, but none more so than Alan Pooley in the leading role of Jean Valjean: the imprisoned protagonist who later became a well-heeled aristocrat and then revolutionary.

He gave absolute belief to the role and the character's need for survival and endurance in the chaos that led to the French Revolution.

He was mesmerising and had a voice that possessed authority and passion in delivering lyrics: especially with the moving Bring Him Home.

But there was so much to admire.

Ben Pierson and Ruth Turner playing Thenardie and Madame Thenardie as an almost comic double-act and giving so much vigour to the music hall-esque numbers such as Master of the House and Beggars at the Feast.

There was the strength of Tim Smith as Javert and Tom Higton as Enjolras, James Lewis as Marius and a jack-the-lad performance from Josh Darton as Gavroche.

In spite of the simmering French Revolution background there was, too, the quieter side of Susie Laker playing Cossette and Georgina Sumner as the tragic Eponine, and Alex Haggis as Fantine.

Set against a dramatic set of scaffolding and black drapes, the whole cast captured the revolutionary mood with the call-to-arms of Red and Black and, obviously, the rabble-rousing Do You Hear the People Sing?

And they were helped by a school orchestra which excelled in spite of having the difficult task of playing throughout the production.

This was not just a production about a revolution, but a revelation of immense young talent.

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