Buzz Magazine December-January 2019/20

Page 24

Pic: Helen Maybanks

LES MISÉRABLES Smothered in critical acclaim and firmly cemented into this generation’s love of musicals, Cameron Mackintosh’s Broadway production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s Les Misérables hardly needs an introduction. Originally conceived for the 25th anniversary of the show almost a decade ago, it’s back, touring across the UK and Ireland. Eagle-eyed fans of the show will appreciate the subtle directorial decisions made in this run, with scenery inspired by Victor Hugo’s paintings, and moments following on from the film adaptation. Nic Greenshields, who plays the stern but conflicted antagonist Javert, stressed how difficult it is to change anything: “The musical is so renowned and well known. It’s been going for 35 years, and we’re on our third generation of fans.” The stage and film adaptations of the show are clearly very faithful to one another; in fact, this touring production became the inspiration for the film. But it’s now come full circle, and this tour borrows elements from Tom Hooper’s 2012 film, starring Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, particularly in terms of its development of certain characters. Nic stresses how important it was that the nuanced relationships between characters was not lost in the adaptations, such as Javert “coming to terms with the similarity between him and Gavroche. He might have alerted everyone that [Javert] was there on the wall, but they were both born in prison – it’s to do with the paths people’s lives take.” Perhaps it’s that introspective quality that keeps the musical so relevant today – that and the songs. “Everyone wants to hear I Dreamed A Dream, Bring Him Home and Stars just how they remember it,” Nic says. He’s not wrong – the songs in Les Mis are some of the best-loved in the history of musical theatre, and certain actors’ renditions have become iconic. This is the longest-running musical in the West End, after all. I asked Nic to choose one song from the show he would love to perform that’s not in Javert’s repertoire: “It would have to be Jean Valjean’s soliloquy. I love it but it’s a little too high for me to perform eight times a week!” ALEX PAYNE Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, Tues 26 Nov-Sat 4 Jan. Tickets: from £23. Info: 029 2063 6464 /

GOK WAN It’s not every day that you get to spend roughly five hours in the company of someone who is reported to be “the nicest person in showbiz” – but that I did. Renowned for being the maestro of makeovers, Gok Wan is soon to play the Fairy Gokmother (yes, you did read that correctly – Gokmother) in Cinderella at Cardiff’s New Theatre. Perhaps this is a daring thing to do, tinkering with the name. Even Gok agrees. “If you think about it, it is a little bit controversial because it’s such a well-known part. It’s a huge thing to change one of the main characters’ names; it’s like going from Cinderella to Cinderbella! But if you think about it, the job that I do every day, which is delivering the makeover, and you know, making people’s dreams come true.” Being somewhat of a veteran now at performing in panto, I asked how straightforward it was for a non-actor like Gok to get into the swing of things initially. “A lot of people think is just a load of adults dressed as very flamboyant characters, but the skill set of being able to do panto is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced,” he says. Pantomime is a very British tradition, only something that you will find on our shores. Yet, behind all the flamboyance, it means so much to the smaller theatres around the UK, as Gok explains. “It’s essential for smaller theatres around the country, because often you’ll be bringing in a large percentage of your annual sales from pantomime. If pantomime didn’t exist, it would have a knock-on effect to the rest of the diary for the year. There’ll be other smaller, one-off or contemporary shows that wouldn’t ever get to make it onto the stage because there would be no funding behind it. And so, pantomime – not only is it brilliant, not only is it beautiful, not only is it fun, but it’s very, very important for the economic world of theatre.” And do I think he is the nicest person in showbiz? Hell yeah! CARL MARSH Cinderella, New Theatre, Cardiff, Sat 7 Dec-Sun 12 Jan. Tickets: £16-£40. Info: 029 2087 8889 / BUZZ 24