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THEATRE REVIEW: Les Miserables (School Edition), University Academy Holbeach




Four and a half years on from Act II Theatre Company's interpretation of Victor Hugo's classic 19th century French novel, Les Miserables, students from University Academy Holbeach (UAH) repeated the exercise on Saturday night.

Turned into the world's longest-running musical by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, a cast of about 40 UAH students from Year 7 to 13 excelled themselves with a performance that now sets the standard for school productions across south-east Lincolnshire.

The story itself takes place roughly 30 years after the French Revolution which led to the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte and took place in protest at the French monarchy and the economic policies of King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette.

Annalise Newman (Eponine), Millie Burchnall (Cosette), Keira Ambleton (Marius) and Freya Hardy (Jean Valjean). Photo by Tim Wilson. SG-051118-013TW
Annalise Newman (Eponine), Millie Burchnall (Cosette), Keira Ambleton (Marius) and Freya Hardy (Jean Valjean). Photo by Tim Wilson. SG-051118-013TW

Les Miserables sees Jean Valjean released from 19 years of unjust imprisonment and intent on redemption, except for the pursuit of police inspector Javert who refuses to believe that Valjean can change his ways.

They confront each other during a student uprising when Valjean spares Javert's life who, in turn, saves that of student revolutionary Marius who has won the heart of Valjean's adopted daughter Cosett.

These dramatic events end with Javert committing suicide and Valjean seeing his purpose on earth finally fulfilled.

Libbi Wooding (centre, Javert) with Maddison and Jodie Benjamin (Constables). Photo by Tim Wilson. SG-051118-014TW
Libbi Wooding (centre, Javert) with Maddison and Jodie Benjamin (Constables). Photo by Tim Wilson. SG-051118-014TW

What made this UAH production so memorable was the capacity of this select group of young people to take on songs now fully enshrined in the canon of musicals immortality, including "Master of the House, The People's Song, One Day More" and the iconic "I Dreamed a Dream" and make them their own.

Make no mistake, stars were born at UAH on Saturday night - Freya Hardy (Valjean), Libbi Wooding (Javert), Bobbi Shepherd (Fantine), Millie Burchnall (Cosette), Keira Embleton (Marius), Emma Tickner (Little Cosette/Gavroche), Analise Newman (Eponine), Jess Burrows (Emjolras) and, perhaps, the stars of the whole show, Lia Feane (Thenardier) and Autumn Bowler (Madame Thenardier).

The main cast for University Academy Holbeach's production of Les Miserables. Photo by Tim Wilson. SG-051118-012TW. (5333659)
The main cast for University Academy Holbeach's production of Les Miserables. Photo by Tim Wilson. SG-051118-012TW. (5333659)

Under the expert stewardship of director Helen Payne, musical director Sam Graper and choreographer Harriet Holmes, UAH's Les Miserables achieved an absolute miracle in surpassing the high standard set by Act II Theatre Company in April 2014.

That in no small part was with support from the carefully-chosen band which included UAH sixth-former, trumpeter and Holbeach Town Band member Corey Genovese.

Hopefully, every parent, grandparent, carer, guardian and other responsible adult who saw their child light up the stage with a school musical for the ages will have reserved for them a special congratulatory hug.

Sadie Benjamin and Lily Prasertsri. Photo by Tim Wilson. SG-051118-016TW
Sadie Benjamin and Lily Prasertsri. Photo by Tim Wilson. SG-051118-016TW

Simply because this particular school edition of Les Miserables deserves to a transfer to the stage of Spalding's South Holland Centre.

Why? Because it was that good.

Review by Winston Brown



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