Meet the cast of Les Mis

Meet the dream team at Dubai Opera

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - cait­lyn@7days.ae

I t’s one of the most per­formed stage shows on the planet – in 44 coun­tries to 70 mil­lion peo­ple – and now Vic­tor Hugo’s Les Mis­er­ables is on at Dubai Opera un­til De­cem­ber 2. Cait­lyn Davey caught up with some of the cast and crew mem­bers.

THE VENUE

Dubai Opera has a wider stage than the tra­di­tional theatres in Lon­don’s West End, the writ­ers Claude-Michel Schon­berg and Alain Boubil tell us. The pres­sure was on as it is the first mu­si­cal at the iconic venue. Schon­berg says: “It’s a great re­spon­si­bil­ity to be the first mu­si­cal play­ing in the Dubai Opera. For this op­por­tu­nity, in such a won­der­ful venue, we have as­sem­bled a dream team. The com­pany of Les Mis­er­ables, play­ing for three weeks, is a com­pany of ex­cep­tional level.”

SET UP

The set de­signs and cos­tumes were co­or­di­nated to en­sure colour-co­he­sion and pre­sen­ta­tion and cos­tume de­signer, An­dreane Ne­ofi­tou says a lot more work goes into the cos­tumes than peo­ple as­sume.

“Be­cause the cos­tumes look shabby, peo­ple are sur­prised to learn the ef­fort it takes to get them in that state. Peo­ple spe­cialise in ag­ing cloth­ing. When we make the cos­tumes, ob­vi­ously they look quite new, so we need to age them.”

JEAN VALJEAN

A Les Mis vet­eran is John Owen-Jones (pic­tured right), also known as Jean Valjean in th­ese parts. He says it’s a pro­duc­tion he keeps com­ing back to. He says: “I’ve been in Les Mis since 1995, I’ve played this role for nearly 20 years. And it’s some­thing I al­ways come back to, be­cause it’s a fam­ily.

“It’s an ensem­ble piece, it’s not a cou­ple of leads. Ev­ery­one works to­gether, and it’s a hugely sat­is­fy­ing and rare ex­pe­ri­ence to work to­gether as a com­pany.”

He was dubbed by Schon­berg and Boubil as “the best Jean Valjean on the planet”, but Owen-Jones is gen­uinely sur­prised when in­formed of this com­pli­ment.

The Welsh­man re­sponds: “I’m very touched, they’ve seen ev­ery­one. Wow. That’s amaz­ing. When we come to the theatre, they come on the bus with the cast. They’re very nor­mal down-to-earth guys. That’s made my day, that has. It’s made it worth get­ting up early to sing Bring Him Home.”

PLAY­ING THE VIL­LAINS

As The Th­er­nadiers (also known as Peter Poly­car­pou and Jodie Prenger) sit down, the larger-than-life duo are hard to look away from. They im­me­di­ately start pok­ing fun at each other and jok­ing with us.

When asked what mo­ment in the pro­duc­tion they feel cap­ti­vates the au­di­ence, Poly­car­pou says: “If there’s a mo­ment for me to al­ways re­mem­ber, it’s the fi­nale to act one.” To which Prenger in­ter­rupts in jest: “Oh so not any of the scenes with me. Wow! En­joy act­ing alone tonight.” The Th­er­nadiers are some of the vil­lains in the piece, and surely that must be more fun? Prenger sighs with a gig­gle: “I love what we do, but I re­ally feel bad shout­ing at those poor chil­dren!” Whereas Poly­car­pou nods vig­or­ously. He ex­plains: “I like it, be­cause it’s make be­lieve. I think play­ing peo­ple; you can’t play evil. Peo­ple who are evil don’t know they’re evil. Javier is not an evil per­son – he’s a good per­son who has a moral dilemma. It’s in­ter­est­ing play­ing peo­ple who have in­ter­est­ing lives. They have a fas­ci­nat­ing dou­ble-act. “The first time you see Th­er­nadier in the book, he’s ri­fling though the corpses of those dead at Water­loo. “So that’s what they’re like, vul­tures feed­ing.”

MEET THE CAST: Cait­lyn Davey meets John OwenJones, who plays Jean Valjean.

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