Jeremy Tustin, director of Les Miserables, dreams a dream
Les Miserables, one of the longest-running musicals of all time, returns to the Gaiety Theatre stage this weekend.
Produced by the Manx Operatic Society, and complete with a stunning new production, the epic tale of an ex-convict in search of redemption in revolutionary France features some of the finest theatrical talent in the island, including Alex Toohey, a 2018 NODA award winner, in the lead role as Jean Valjean, who is perpetually haunted by his nemesis Javert, played by David Artus.
The tragic figure of Fantine is played by Kristene Sutcliffe, and Hannah Clinton will play her daughter Cosette, alongside Dandi Dancox, who plays the role of Eponine.
This new show has been created by the director, Jeremy Tustin, who was also responsible for the first stage show of Les Miserables, which was then produced by the Douglas Choral Union in 2009.
Then, the production gained infamy as the first time the show has been performed by an amateur drama association outside of London.
Jeremy explained that, due to UK copyright restrictions, the Isle of Man is one of the few places that will be allowed to put on a production of the show, but even then they have had to live up to the exacting standards of the West End show’s producers.
’It is a huge deal to put on a show like Les Miserables,’ said Jeremy.
’There is a lot of pressure that comes with taking on a show like this. The Isle of Man is still the only place you can see “Les Mis” performed on stage outside the West End.
’The last time we did this show, I had to be interviewed by Cameron Macintosh, the producer of Les Les Miserables, as he wanted to know that I was up to the job. I had already worked for him by then, which had helped.
’This time it was much easier, purely because we had done it before. It still wasn’t a straightforward thing though, and it still took them a while to say yes and to agree to it.
’The overall look of the show had to be sanctioned, as they want it to be what people expect to see when they see the show in London.
’The set was built in the UK and brought over here to be assembled. We have had to have the stage created from scratch, as there just isn’t a set for this show you can hire anywhere.
’Also, the costumes are brand new, as they simply don’t exist anywhere outside London, and they won’t release those costumes. We have to have them made especially.’
The recent rise in popularity of the story, thanks to the TV series and the film, which starred the island’s own Samantha Barks as Eponine, adds to the pressure to make sure that they produce a show good enough to match people’s expectations.
’It is a huge deal to put on “Les Mis”,’ he said.
’Between now and the last time, with the film and the TV show, it has become incredibly popular,’ he said.
’”Les Mis” is a musical that many people know about, or know part of. Or they will know some of the songs. I Dreamed a Dream became incredibly popular again when Susan Boyle sang it and, of course there is the local connection of Sam Barks.
’But I want this production to be totally different to the one I produced last time.
’I didn’t want to come back and recreate the same thing again. Last time we had the revolve, which is a stage that turned. This time we are using video projections and the screen wall, and our barricade will be much bigger. This show will be very different.’
Jeremy has assembled a cast of more than 40 actors and singers and an orchestra of 16 musicians to help bring his vision to the stage, and said that, at one point, it felt like everybody with any connection to the stage wanted to be part of the show.
Now, after nearly six months of rehearsals and preparations, and weekly trips across the Irish Sea, he is excited about see the production finally take the stage.
’I have been talking about bringing this show back to the island again for about three of four years now.
’That’s how long it takes to get something like this off the ground and ready for the stage.
’On Friday, last week, after the first run through, the sound from the band call was incredible, and was just what you expect to hear from the London show. I just stood back and went “wow”.
’There was nothing I could add to it. It was amazing. It’s nice to finally get it onto the stage again after all these years talking about it.’
Les Miserables opens on Saturday, March 2, at 7.30pm, and runs until Saturday, March 16, for 13 shows, including two matinees.
Tickets are £23 each, with under 16s £20, available from the Welcome Centre and the Villa Gaiety box office, on 600555, and online from villagaiety.com
by Mike Wade