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Do you hear the people cheer? GSAL pupils get standing ovation for a revolutionary production of ‘Les Misérables’.

Tuesday 25 April 2023

The Grammar School at Leeds’ School Edition of ‘Les Misérables’ was a roaring three-night success late last month. Year 13 student Daniella shares her review:

GSAL students from years 8-13 ended the spring term in a storm, leaving everything out on stage for a three-night run of shows of the school edition of ‘Les Misérables’. The talented cast performed to crowds packed with families, friends, staff, alumni and pupils each night, and I was fortunate enough to attend the sold-out closing night. These students demonstrated dedication and passion to their craft, successfully transporting the audience back to early 19th century France; the culmination of six months preparation and rehearsals.

The musical ‘Les Misérables’ by Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, follows the story of Jean Valjean who was a former convict and spends a lifetime seeking redemption. Performances included some of the play’s most well-known songs such as “I Dreamed a Dream”, “Do You Hear the People Sing?” and “Bring Him Home”.

The experience begins before the audience has even taken their seats. Beggars traversing the school’s corridor interacted with the audience as they made their way to the theatre where on arrival they see the spectacular set and the room filled with ominous smoke.

The musical begins with the live orchestra performing the prologue song which leaves the audience in anticipation of what is to come. As the chain gang begin trudging down the stage we are introduced to the main protagonist, Jean Valjean, played by William. As Jean Valjean is released on parole by the prison guard Javert (Landon), he has the opportunity to become an honest man when the bishop (David) gives him a second chance. We later meet the character Fantine (Talia) where Valjean cares for her during the birth of her daughter up until her death.

Throughout the performance, I was amazed at how talented the students are. One of my most memorable and favourite moments was watching the enjoyment emanate from the performers – and the audience – during “Master of the House”. The characters Monsieur and Madame Thénardier, played by Ben and Sofia, injected a sense of humour on stage to juxtapose the sombre mood of other key moments in the musical.

As time jumps forward, we are further introduced to more principal characters: Marius (Marcus), Enjolras (Chris), Cosette (Hannah), Eponine (Anna) and Gavroche (Zack). Throughout the entire performance, the lighting, sound and the set design of the barricade really captures the audience’s attention, as well as the perfectly choreographed fight scene that carried the spirit of the student revolution. As Jean Valjean grows old and is comforted by the past spirits, the performance ends with the faces of the revolution and the ensemble coming together for the finale “Do You Hear the People Sing?” leaving the entire audience on their feet in a standing ovation.

The final night left the cast emotional as they all thoroughly enjoyed their time together rehearsing, performing and building friendships along the way. A special mention was given to the year 13 students who were involved in their final school production and for their dedication to the drama and music departments throughout their time at GSAL.

A massive heartfelt thank you was offered to Mrs Sidwell (musical director) and Miss R Bendelow, Miss E Binks and Mr S Reynolds (creative directors) for making this musical possible. Thanks were also given to Ms Nutt (set Construction and lighting design), costume and makeup design, production crew and to all the musicians involved in the live orchestra. Finally, I would like to thank the entire cast and ensemble who should be tremendously proud; you have left the audience touched by a show they will never forget.

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