It was pretty good.

What does it feel like to play the lead role on a popular West End musical at the age of 8 or so? I don’t know, but it was amazing! Her acting and singing were incredible.

I looked up the girl who played Matilda (Matilda Shapland – yes, her real first name is actually Matilda), and apparently her only prior stage experience was as little Eponine in Les Miserables. That’s a pretty big jump! I don’t think little Eponine even has any lines!

The children songs in this musical have a lot of words, and some parts are almost like rap.

Another recurring feature is word play and twisty language.

The most iconic of the children’s songs is probably ‘School Song’ –

It’s catchy and fun, but I’m not quite used to it yet. I think I still prefer singing in musicals to be more operatic, as I don’t usually care as much about the lyrics as the melodies.

But that’s purely personal preference, and the musical is still very well done, and if you are a linguist type, you’ll love it!

Story-wise, I really wasn’t expecting much since it’s a children’s book, but there is actually a beautiful story behind all this madness, so I was quite pleasantly surprised!

PS. Cambridge Theatre seats are much easier on the butt.

Next week – The Book of Mormon

First West End Experience – Les Misérables


The moment you realize the girl who sang little Cosette is only 7 years old…

“Castle On a Cloud” was amazing. There’s this child-like nasal tone, but there’s nothing child-like about the mature, resonant, and well-projected voice. It’s unbelievable. 7 years old!!

Valjean and Javert were also very well done, especially Valjean’s deep voice and engaging vibrato.

Something I found very interesting is how they used the qualities of their voices to reflect their state of mind.

In the story, Valjean and Javert essentially started on opposite ends of the sanity scale, with Valjean on the insane side, and Javert on the sane side. As the story goes on, they eventually swapped places.

Javert’s voice started as resolved and accurate, and as the story went on, and as he started to doubt himself more and more, his voice noticeably became less stable, less powerful, and less pure.

While in Valjean, the opposite happened. His voice started off a little shaky and unsure, but turned into this powerful and resonant monster towards the end.

Similar things happened in Fantine. Her voice was weak and breathy in the factory scene and when she was walking around on the street, defeated and depressed. However, once she starts singing “I Dreamed a Dream”, all that went away, and she is back to this beautiful and strong voice, until she started begging Javert to not arrest her, at which point she returned to the submissive breathy voice. It’s almost like she has 2 personas that she was switching between.

It was very cool. And it’s something I didn’t see in the Youtube version (25th anniversary at Royal Albert Hall, which coincidentally is 2 minutes walk from Imperial!). In that production, everyone sang perfectly all the time. Which version do I prefer? I don’t know, but it’s pretty cool what they did here in this West End production.

Marius and (adult) Cosette were flawless. The scene where they just met (properly met) is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen (I thought they were supposed to talk through the gate… but he hopped over?!).

Highly recommended if you ever come to West End! It doesn’t have an end date yet, and has already been playing for 10 years, so it will probably continue to play for a few years at least?

Before seeing the musical I had already seen the movie, read half the books (they are very long books), listened to all the music about 500 times, and watched the musical 3 times on Youtube. Needlessly to say, I was very excited to finally be able to see it in person after all these years, and it did not disappoint!

I love how they have about 20 musicals on all the time at any given time. No more waiting for tours! Last time Les Mis was on tour in Vancouver, they were there for 2 weeks, and played for every single day except for the second Monday… which happened to be the only day I was in Vancouver. No more of that!

I am also very fortunate to be able to get tickets for cheap thanks to Imperial subsidy. £25 for central Dress Circle!

I’ll probably end up just watching every single musical on West End right now.

Theatre Review

Queen’s Theatre is pretty old. The seats made my butt a little sore.

I got H22 in Dress Circle, and the view was actually pretty good, though I wouldn’t recommend Grand Circle, since it seems really high. You’d be able to see nothing but heads.

The sound system can probably use some improvement, though. Someone needs to look at those Bode plots. Some of the high notes sound a little stretched and broken, and I don’t think it’s the singers, since it happened to all the sopranos. Bass also seems to be relatively weak. Their amplifier has a strange transfer function.

Most of the stage effects were achieved using a big rotating platform thing. That was pretty cool. That’s how they showed both sides of the barricade, etc.

Wish they did something fancier for Javert’s suicide, though! The only thing they did was raising the bridge. I was hoping to see him hanging of cables and stuff… 🙂