This isn’t a review of a single show, but I’ve seen quite a few understudies lately, so I thought I’d just review them together:
Christopher Jacobsen – Valjean. I really enjoyed his portrayal, he’s a wonderful actor and singer and really makes you forget that you’re just watching someone pretending to be Valjean. For me, he’s almost up there with Jonathan Williams. He adds so many little touches and puts so much emotion behind every word. I loved him in What Have I Done and especially in Valjean’s Confession. I’m looking forward to seeing him again at some point.
Chris Key – Valjean. I’m not quite sure what I think of him. Acting wise I thought he was very, very good, but I found his voice quite weak, especially his upper register. He did get better in the second half though. I loved how he almost follows the Bishop off stage to give him the candlesticks back. I’m generally more picky about acting, so I still enjoyed his performance very much and I’m sure he’ll only get better the more often he gets to go on.
James Smoker – Bishop. James is a very endearing and quite quirky Bishop. He’s got an almost constant twinkle in his eyes (and he actually reminds me a lot of Albus Dumbledore…) and a very strong voice. It’s just a short scene, but I loved his interaction with both Christopher Jacobsen and Chris Key.
Scott Garnham – Enjolras. Again, I’m in two minds about him. His Enjolras is very dominant and has got the required leadership skills. He’s also very charismatic and interacts a lot with the other students. His voice just didn’t sound very strong that night. When I saw him as Marius, it was exactly the other way round (very strong vocals, but not so great acting), so he probably just had an off-night. I would love to see him again at some point.
Adam Linstead – Thénardier. I don’t like it when the Thénardiers are simply portrayed as some sort of clowns. Yes, they provide a few more light-hearted (on the surface anyway) scenes, but they should be sinister more than anything. Adam Linstead seems to be more of a funny Thénardier. I did like him in Master of the House and thought he was alright in Dog Eats Dog, but I didn’t like him at all in the Wedding scene. His ad-libbing reminded me too much of Matt Lucas.
Daryl Armstrong – Grantaire. He’s definitely a very different Grantaire and doesn’t seem to have any relationship with Enjolras (He was played by Liam Tamne that night) whatsoever. In the Café scene and Do You Hear the People Sing he constantly mocks Enjolras and shows nothing but contempt for him after Drink With Me. I’m not sure if I like it, but it worked within the context of the show, especially as Liam isn’t a particularly forceful or determined Enjolras.
A special mention to James Charlton and George Miller, who I have seen in quite a few different tracks now. I particularly liked James’ Feuilly and George is great as both Courfeyrac and Combeferre.
From next week, Chris Key will play Valjean each Monday and Christopher Jacobsen each Thursday night.