You would think that most theatregoers would have seen Les Misérables at least once. After all, it is the world’s longest-running musical, has been translated into 22 languages, performed in 44 countries and seen in more than 350 cities.
So to stage this musical for 18 performances at a new theatre that has a capacity of 2,000 is, you would think, a little bit of a gamble. You would be wrong.
The Cameron Mackintosh production, now being staged at Dubai Opera, is, rightly so, being hailed as a huge success.
With a cast incorporating talent from the theatres of London, New York and Australia, the Dubai production is an unmissable event – even if you are one of those millions who has already seen Les Misérables somewhere else in the world.
John Owen-Jones, who has played Jean Valjean in London, New York and Paris, mesmerised the audience with his crystal-clear voice. It appeared that the audience packed into the opera house would not stop applauding after his moving version of Bring Him Home.
Why on earth Hayden Tee was cheered and not booed at the end of the show was a mystery, though – he was that good in his portrayal as the ruthless policeman Javert. Everything a villain should be.
Patrice Tipoki played Fantine as tear-jerkingly and tragically as anyone surely has done, while Carrie Hope Fletcher (Eponine), Paul Wilkins (Marius) and Emily Langridge (Cosette) all made beautiful and heart-rendering performances.
As anyone who has seen Les Misérables knows it is a sorrowful story, which has just the one scene to bring a bit of lightheartedness into it. Peter Polycarpou as Thénardier, and Jodie Prenger as his wife, Madame Thénardier, gave everyone a lift with their rumbustious version of Master of the House.
Of course, any show can be held back by the theatre hosting it. That’s where this version of Les Misérables stands out from most around the world. Quite simply, the people of Dubai – indeed the UAE – should be proud of what they have on their doorstep. The venue is magnificent – from seating to acoustics.
And the stage setting, surely, cannot be beaten. So good was the scenery, one could at times be forgiven for believing you were at the cinema. So real it seemed as Jean Valjean carried Marius through the sewers of Paris – the only thing missing was the smell.
But the most touching and dramatic scene was the slaughter at the barricade. Watching the young students being shot to death and falling slowly to the ground would have touched the hearts of even the most hardened theatregoer.
If you are not one of the 70 million who has seen Les Misérables you have two weeks to put that right. And if you are one of those millions, then treat yourself – go again. You won’t regret it.
• Les Misérables is showing at Dubai Opera until December 2. Tickets start from Dh275 on www.dubaiopera.com