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Review of Les Misérables: School Edition (NMTC Youth Society) at the Cripps Hall Theatre, Northampton

From my four years or so of watching theatre in Northampton, there is one thing beyond the huge professional shows that I see touring, that I always enjoy so much more (despite the occasional dodginess of the quality), and that is youth theatre. For me in my heart, it adds something special, here we have the often maligned young of today, getting out there and doing something truly fulfilling. Here though, with the debut of the newly formed Youth Society, spinning off from the adult Northampton Musical Theatre Company, we have something also which goes beyond enthusiasm of the young to create a really special piece of theatre.

Les Misérables is in the top three of musicals for me, I love its huge numbers, I connect to its story, and it has some extremely strong characters, for me, it just works. Therefore, you could say that I would have an immediate bias towards this show, however, I do feel protective of it as well, so, it needs to be done right. However, I have nothing to worry about with this, from the brilliantly choreographed opening scene, and onto one of my favourites At The End of the Day, I may well have had a little tear in my eye very early in the show.

There is an immense amount of talent in this production, Jean Valjean is played with a lovely light touch by Oscar Powell, he is the haunted and troubled man we know of him. We can see him age and care for those around him through Powell's performance, this is no criminal. This works brilliantly against Isaac Gavin's Javert, strong and deep vocals, and power of execution. He might be the lawman, but we don't root for Javert here. They are two excellent singers and create a very believable relationship between them and help weld the show together.

This whole cast is packed with some terrific performances though, with no weak links really. There is no question of being stirred to emotion by Lily-Grace Tofte's just so incredibly sweet performance of Castle on a Cloud as young Cosette. This would only be if you were not already full of emotion from her lovely dance during Hannah Jarvis' previous scene and stunning performance of Fantine's Come to Me. Jarvis had already captured the love of the audience during her strong singing of the classic I Dreamed a Dream.

Matthew Broome is quite amazing as Thenardier, and his partnership with the equally great Thendo-Lindani Ndou is one of the best parts of the show. Great characterisation from them and a brilliant performance of the always audience-rousing Master of the House. It was also a brilliant moment to see them pop up from behind the barrels for the act one closing One Day More, a neat touch.

Elsewhere there are two glorious performances from Ben Mineards as Enjolras, a hugely strong vocal range, while Riley Aldred creates a brilliant Gavroche, his Little People moment is a thing of fun and then huge sadness, a gorgeous moment, very well performed by Aldred.

I have to be honest that all the performers were great and to not mention them all feels bad, but for those not mentioned, feel proud of what you have achieved here.

There is some nice production value to the show, it looks great with a nicely assembled collection of costumes. Props all do the job and scene changes are swiftly handled by the crew and cast. Sound balance is great, and indeed better than a lot of professional shows I have seen, with little dialogue lost. The only real issue here being mics being brought in too late and missing opening lines of a few performers, which is a slight shame, but hopefully easily corrected.

There is a lot of work unquestionably been done on creating the scenes and the vision of director Katy Batchelor and choreographer Fiona Luck is clear on stage, with the dedication of the multitude of young performers working together to make them work. Standout scenes include Lovely Ladies, and the antics brilliantly brought to life during Master of the House. It is all just a joy to see.

The NMTC has to be applauded for setting up the Youth Society, it has hit the ground running strong with Les Misérables: School Edition, a tremendous achievement from all involved and long may the Youth Society continue now to bring shows of this quality to the stage and to show the young talent we have in the town. A brilliant success.

Performance reviewed: Saturday 12th May 2018 (matinee) at the Cripps Hall Theatre, Northampton.

Les Misérables runs until Sunday 13th May 2018 at the Cripps Hall Theatre and details can be found at https://www.northamptonmusicaltheatrecompany.co.uk/youth/

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