Wednesday, December 2, 1987
Quality 'Les Miz' Bows In Sydney;
$3.6-Mil Advance; See 2-Year Run
Sydney The curtain went up on the Aussic version of "Les Miserables" Nov. 27 in front of an expectant V.I.P. audience 0f 1,000 at the Theater Royal.
When it came down again three hours later, an extended standing ovation and rapturous applase from the emotional, even tearful, crowd, capped what may have been the best opening night Sydney theater has ever witnessed.
Unlike the opening night of "Cats" at the same theater in July 1985, there were no bomb scares or hitches of any kind to interupt proceedings.
While the advance sales for "Les Miserables," at $A3,600,000, were still short of "Cats" $A4,000,000-plus advance, producer Cameron Mackintosh can rest assured of a Sydney run of at least one year, probably closer to two.
Mackintosh was in for the premiere, as were most of the original production team, including director Trevor Nunn, designer John Napier, and writer Alain Boublil. Also present, and looking equally as pleased with themselves, were Hoyts Entertainment directors Peter Ivany and Paul O'Neile, whose $A1,200,000 investment in the production looks more than secure.
The Sydney production of "Les Miz" is, esthetically, a copy of the original London version, but the Aussic cast brings an entirely new feel to the show which had many first-nighters, who had aiready experienced the show in London or New York, coming out in favor of the local version.
Mackintosh has spent much of his time here during the preview period proclaiming hls Australian cast as the best yet.
While thc casting ol Normic Rowe, '60s pop singer and Vietnam veteran, as Jean Valjean was seen as somewhat controversial earlier this year, his performance is admirable, achieving all the pathos and heroism embodied in the character.
His rock 'n' roll voice occasionally is stretched beyond its capabilities, but Rowe ultimately carries himself through the musical triumphantly.
Vocally, it is a strong and passionate cast. Philip Quast's Javert, Simon Burke's Marius and Anthony Warlow's Enjolras deliver blood-stirring solos, while from the female side, Marina Prior's Cosette, Jodie Gillies' Eponine and, particularly, Debbie Byrne's Fantine, are nothing short of perfection. They give haunting, delicote and powerfui portrayals.
The scenery and lighting, from John Napier and David Hersey, are the most advanced and imaginative yet seen in Australia, and received applause in their own right at the premiere.
"Les Miserables" has taken theater in Australia to new heights. It leaves home grown shows such as "Rasputin" far behind in the quality stakes and, with a head start for potential ticket-buyers in the Bicentennial year, "Les Miz" will make it all the more difficult for producers of new Australian musicals due next year, such as "Manning Clark's History Of Australia," to reach the standards that now will be expected of tbem. Krug.