Review: Chesterfield Studios’ students win standing ovation for Les Miserables - school edition

Connor Stanmore plays Marius and  Aimee Hyde plays Eponine in Les Miserables at Rose Theatre, Chesterfield.
Connor Stanmore plays Marius and Aimee Hyde plays Eponine in Les Miserables at Rose Theatre, Chesterfield.
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Songs sung with passion and energy and scenes played with conviction earned the students of Chesterfield Studios a standing ovation at the launch night of Les Miserables - school edition.

A packed audience rose to its feet in the aptly named Rose Theatre last night (Tuesday, February 24) to cheer the awe-inspiring achievements of the cast, musicians, backstage crew and tutors who brought this epic story to life.

The musical, which is running until Saturday, takes viewers on a rollercoaster ride from the peak of happiness to the depths of sadness in a heart-tugging production.

Ear-splitting gunfire, dramatic lighting and bodies dropping like flies at the barricade, Fantine’s deathbed scene and the gaiety of the greedy Thenadiers as they live it up in their pub are among the memorable moments.

But it’s the singing which is the true test of this musical - and the cast rise to the challenge.

Ben Whiteside gives a confident and mature performance as the sinner turned saint Jean Valjean, Edward Telfer, playing cold-hearted Inspector Javert, excels in the tricky vocal acrobatics of Stars, Ryan Mitchell gives a powerful performance as Enjolais leading some of the musical’s best-known numbers and Connor Stanmore shines in Marius’s solo Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.

The girls match the boys for vocal prowess and characterisation. Charlotte Noakes brings great tenderness and a purity of singing to tragic factory girl Fantine, Aimee Hyde’s delicate, sweet voice epitomises love-struck Eponine and Jasmine Lewis-Henman displays mature and polished singing in her role as older Cosette.

Sam Widdowson and Martha West make a great double act as the pub bosses Thenadier and his missus, bringing lively humour to counteract the dark elements of the story.

Younger performers prove to be rising stars too. Owen Jenkinson throws himself into the role of Gavroche, the voice of the little people, Iona Blair sang her heart out as little Cosette last night (a role taken by Martha Barratt at alternate performances) and Elli-Mai Brown is a well-dressed and pretty Eponine.

The costumes wouldn’t look out of place in a professional production. The street-walking Lovely Ladies are dressed to kill in satin knickerbockers and corset tops while the wedding scene sees the most elegant of ballgowns swirling around the stage in a beautifully choreographed number.

A 16-strong orchestra, conducted by musical director Jonathan Francis, accompanies the production which is directed by Jonathan and the show’s choreographer Roseanna Sanderson.

GAY BOLTON