The raw emotional power of Les Miserables is driven home in a stirring, heartfelt production that has an urgent message for our times. As we face the consequences of unbridled greed and cynical corruption, Victor Hugo's heroically optimistic vision rings out as a clarion call to join the struggle for a better tomorrow.
The show is also a triumph for Auckland Music Theatre, celebrating its 100th anniversary. Its partnership with Amici Trust delivers a production that combines boundless enthusiasm with finely crafted professionalism.
At the heart of the story is the epic confrontation between the police inspector Javert representing pitiless adherence to the law and Jean Valjean, the brutalised convict whose life is transformed by an un-asked for gesture of mercy.
James MacKay skilfully handles the shift from the bitterness of Valjean's rage against injustice to the exquisite tenderness of a father's love for his daughter; Hayden Tee chillingly evokes the relentless cruelty of Javert's judgmental adherence to the law and movingly captures the bewilderment of a man who is incapable of receiving mercy. Rebecca Wright's I Dreamed a Dream gives voice to the delicate nostalgia of a wretched outcast yearning for a time when the world was a song.
A tumultuous love triangle captures the wild passions of young lovers, with Emily Robinson evoking the torments of unrequited love while Alexandra Francis is swept up in the mysterious, unsettling emotions of A Heart Full of Love. Will Martin's superb tenor carries the aching melancholy of failed dreams as Marius deals with the guilt of survivor in Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.
A hugely entertaining dollop of the grotesque is introduced by Hamish McGregor and Theresa Wells who present the predatory and wickedly selfish Thenardiers as pantomime villains. Anchoring the show is the huge ensemble's stirringly robust choral work - most notably in the show's iconic anthem Do You Hear the People Sing.
Grant Meese's assured direction and Allan Lee's bold design are beautifully complemented by Penny Dodd's musical direction, with lively orchestral flourishes and delicate instrumental colourings marking the ever-changing tone of the story.
What: Les Miserables
Where & When: The Civic until Saturday, November 30
Reviewer: Paul Simei-Barton