Meet the cast of Les Mis
Meet the dream team at Dubai Opera
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.
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.”
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.”
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.