Seeing Lea Salonga play Fantine was worth the ticket price alone but to single her out would be wrong. Alfie Boe (Jean Valjean), Norm Lewis (Javert), Jenny Galloway (Madame Thénardier), Ramin Karimloo (Enjolras), Samantha Barks (Éponine) and Katie Hall (Cosette) all put in strong performances befitting the occasion. The Royal Philharmonic provided a suitably grand accompaniment and the casts of both the Palace Theatre and the 25th anniversary tour added real weight and enthusiasm.
Two celebrities from the broader world of entertainment took to the stage. The weak one was Nick Jonas as Marius. His voice was relatively lightweight and he sounded like he struggled with the range of the part; perhaps understandable, given he is only 18, but regrettable as Jonas couldn’t balance with the other leads. In contrast Matt Lucas, was nothing short of brilliant as Thénardier, dishing up a character a Les Mis-mad audience could recognise but with his own twist of humour thrown in.
Billed as a concert, Les Misérables 25 was in effect semi-staged with full costume and entrances and exits, many through a very effective central portal through the set, a much more theatrical approach than the 10th anniversary Albert Hall edition. The excellent lighting was co-designed by Paule Constable and Patrick Woodroffe; it owed a lot to rock concert design, with moving trusses playing an integral part in the barricade scene. Giant hazers whirrred away stage left and right to give the extensive rig something to bite on across the height of the O2 arena.
However, as much as I am typically glued to the technical aspects of grand productions such as this one the highlight of the event for me was the appearance at the end of several leading players from the original 1985 Les Misérables cast including Colm Wilkinson and Michael Ball. The audience was already on its feet when a four tenors rendition of ‘Bring Him Home’ by Wikinson, Boe, John Owen-Jones (Valjean in the 25th tour) and Simon Bowman (Valjean in the Palace Theatre production) brought the house down.