As far as theatre spectaculars go, Cameron Mackintosh’s production of LES MISÉRABLES is pretty much right up there. This incredible show is to return to Wales Millennium Centre this month and this rescheduled visit is going to be an incredible Christmas and New Year offering.
This production was at the WMC in the winter of 2019, in fact you can read our review, and see what the audience thought right HERE.
The production we get will be the same, and rather than give you all the facts and figures, head over to our special feature which is crammed with all things Les Mis and details on this blockbuster of a show – HERE.
A big show like this demands a big cast. This is a big piece too, you’ll be in the theatre for over three hours as you go on an emotional journey through this powerful tale. Of course the lead character, Jean Valjean, is the most demanding and DEAN CHISNALL carries it off with captivating brilliance. His voice is more than impressive. He brought a lot of us to tears with his rendition of Bring Him Home.
NIC GREENSHIELDS returns as Javert and is equally commanding in both voice and stature.
Dean has musical theatre running through his veins having being the Narrator in Blood Brothers, Sam in Mamma Mia and even a stint as Shrek in the the musical.
Nic too has a musical pedigree behind him with show such as Beauty and the Beast, Oklahoma and The Phantom of the Opera.
So, before these two powerhouse performers make a welcome return to the Donald Gordon stage, we had a chat with them about the show and the joy of working on a production of this scale.
You’re both playing two of the most iconic roles in musical theatre, Jean Valjean and Javert in Les Misérables. What’s it like taking on roles like these? Dean…….
“I say it to everybody, this is the dream role for anybody in musical theatre. It’s the pinnacle for any male performer and I just feel very lucky to do it, and to have done it for as long as I have. I’ve now played over 500 performances as Jean Valjean, and it still feels as magical as it did the first time I stepped on the stage. I pinch myself every day.”
“It’s a great privilege to play Javert. I first saw the show when I was in my teens, and to be doing it 25-years later is a huge honour. I try to bring out a different side to Javert, giving him multiple dimensions and making him more than just the baddie, showing a more emotional side to him.”
I’m guessing you were both fans of the show before you were actually part of it, do you remember your first experience of Les Mis experience? Dean……
“I do remember the first time I saw it. I’ve always been a fan, long before I even dreamt of having a career in theatre. I was in London on my own about the age of 18 and pootled off to get myself a single ticket to see Les Miserables at The Palace Theatre. I sat there and completely fell in love with the show.”
You must have been fairly young when the show made it on to your radar Nic?
“I remember buying a cassette when I was about 11 years old of people singing songs from Les Mis. I remember listening to it and trying to imagine what the show would be like. Eventually I begged my Mum to take me and we queued for returns. I was just blown away. The show really resonated with me and I thought “I want to be part of this. This is what I want to do.”
Nic, you’ve both played these roles for a long period of time. Have you found that your understanding of the character has changed since you first began performing the role?
“Most definitely. I’ve changed since I first covered the role. I’m a dad now, I’m older and more mature and have experienced life a bit more. I’m now able to identify a lot more layers to him. It’s a great role and there’s no other role in the show I would rather do. I always like to discover more about him as I continue to play him.”
I guess it’s the same for you?
“I say to people that we always try to strive for perfection, which is not attainable, which means you never stop trying to achieve it. With someone like Jean Valjean, he is very complex in many ways but very simple in others, it’s always a challenge to try and work him out and I love that about him. I think I’ve probably played him a little bit differently every performance. There’s always something new you can find in him and he’s a wonderful person to play.”
As a member of the audience (and having seen the show a lot), I have memories of each time I saw it, you two must have some incredible Les Mis memories?
“I love Bring Him Home. I know it’s a song that I sing on my own, but it has always felt like a whole company moment. The rest of the cast are asleep on the barricades, so it always feels quite magical. I also love the absolutely iconic One Day More, with the whole company there. To be honest, the whole show is two and a half hours of pure magic.”
It’s the emotional songs Nic….
“I absolutely agree, One Day More is such an iconic moment for everyone. There is no better way to end the first act of a show! I always enjoy listening to Fantine sing ‘I Dreamed A Dream’, it’s a great number and I defy anyone to come and see it and not love that moment. The moments I have with Dean are wonderfully dramatic. I love the opening with the prisoners, and the moment that moves me is the finale with Valjean and Cosette. It’s musically so beautiful and the lyrics are stunning as well.”
I can tell you both that when we come out of the theatre we are absolutely emotionally exhausted, so heaven know what it’s like for you guys up there night after night. Do you have any little routines to get you through the run – Nic?
“I took up running during lockdown! I felt I needed to do something, and just before we started rehearsals I ran a half marathon which was a big achievement. All the roles are demanding, if you keep delivering at the level we want to, it is tough work. You do have to look after yourself. Dean and I try and take care of our voices and energy to ensure that we’re performing well eight shows a week.”
Same question for you Dean…..
“Preparation is key! Trying to stay healthy and get some sleep. I love my job, so it’s not a chore and I don’t think of it as being exhausting. It is tiring but I have to say probably more mentally exhausting than it is physically because of who Jean Valjean is and what a marathon journey he goes on. We are here to give the audience some sort of escape and of course actors like to escape into a role as well. I undoubtedly feel that I am somewhere else during those two and a half hours, you have to live and breathe these characters. You can’t fake Les Mis.”
Why do you both think audiences still love to come and see Les Mis?
“The messages of Les Mis are still so relevant. Everyone has something that they can relate to in the show, something that they have experienced in their lives. The show now is as fresh as it ever was, it’s a wonderful company that we’ve got here, and we’re delighted to be sharing it with people. There is no show that has a reaction quite like this one. It’s the greatest show on earth.
What about you Nic?
The music is definitely a huge part of it. The score is stunning and has really broken through into popular culture bringing it to a new audience. Ultimately, I think the show has remained so popular because of the themes. It’s a show about redemption and the human condition and everything that still resonates with us all today. We connect with the characters and become engrossed in the story and the beautiful music pulls everything together. It’s clearly a magical formula.”
There must have been moments in your career when a little nugget of advice, or a little tip has really stuck with you both – Dean……
“I think just take on as much information as possible, as you’re like a sponge in rehearsals. I also always want the people I’ve worked with before to want to work with me again. So, just be nice, be kind and be a team player. Those are the fundamentals of being part of a show.”
What about you Nic?
“Mine is the same as Dean’s really, it really is so important to be nice to people, and to remember everything is a collaborative effort. I also remember my principal at drama school, Betty Laine, really instilling in me never to be late. I have a real thing about that, and I always plan to be early!”
Thank you both for having a chat with us. Honestly, we cannot wait to see you back in Cardiff, a place you know so well and a stage you clearly enjoy performing on.
LES MISÉRABLES is at the Wales Millennium Centre from Tuesday 13th December to Saturday 14th January 2023. There are various performances, evening and Matinee with tickets starting at £23 through to £65. If you want to check the ticket situation either call the Box Office on 02920-636464 or go HERE.