Review: Incredible young cast from Burnley theatre school triumph in outstanding musical that deserves West End billing
I have been a journalist for 32 years and in that time I have watched and reviewed a couple of hundred shows on the amateur dramatic circuit acrossÂ East Lancashire.
But the show I watched at the Pendle Hippodrome in Colne last Saturday was quite simply off the scale.
The staging of a musical with the gravitas of Les Miserables would be a challenge for any theatre company.
So for a company where the youngest member of the cast is eight and the oldest has just turned 18, it was indeed a challenge for Burnley based Basics Theatre School principal Andy Cooke and director Richard Sanderson.
But hats' off to them, for the show was an absolute triumph from start to finish and each and every member of the cast gave a sterling performance that was complemented by a live orchestra and dramatic lighting and sound effects.
It was breathtaking to see such talent, professionalism and dedication to their art from these young people. The cast held the audience in the palm of its hand and at the most dramatic moments in the show you could hear a pin drop in the theatre.
And, sorry to use another cliche, but there wasn't a dry eye in the house at the end of the show.
This is the story that has it all -love, heartbreak, betrayal, death, tragedy, war - as we follow the life of reformed convict Valjean who turns his life around to become a businessman and mayor.
Reuben Khan gave his all to the role that would test the skill of an actor 20 years his senior. Valjean is strong, a man of great character, yet also flawed, and Reuben conveyed that perfectly with a truly moving performance and what an amazing singer.
His rendition of Bring Him Home was raw, powerful and emotional.
Although her time on stage was quite brief Millie Green made a huge impact as the tragic heroine Fantine.
Just like Reuben she displayed the skill and and talent of someone much older in both her acting and her exquisite singing. You may have heard many different versions of the song I Dreamed A Dream but Millie's interpretation was a powerful blend of strength and raw emotion.
So dedicated to her art is Millie she had her hair cut for the role and put off going to university for a year after she was given the part.
Aaron George as Marius and Madeliene Callaghan-Aunger Cosette, stole everyone's hearts as the star crossed lovers and Harrison Newsham was perfectly cast as Javert, the hard hearted captain who pursues Valjean to the end of his life.
Harrison had a commanding presence on stage as the arrogant Javert who is broken by events in his life. Harrison portrayed that breakdown with great aplomb and the suicide scene was a breathtaking spectacle.
The audience felt the pain of feisty young Eponine, played by Anna Hunt, who suffers the heartbreak of unrequited love. The range of Anna's voice was outstanding and her rendition of On My Own moved me to tears.
Enjolras, the rebel rouser, was played with great aplomb by Toby Cooke who gave the character the perfect blend of cockiness tinged with vulnerability.
I must also give special mention to Aaron Hipgrave-Lewis and Emily Herbert who provided the show with the comedy element in the form of the Thernardiers. Their comic timing was spot on and neither of them went over the top, which they could have done so easily.
The older cast members have been working on this production for a year, and it shows. Well done to the younger memebrs also who absolutely enchanted the audience.
Many people commented it would not have been out of place on a West End stage and I would go a step further and say that is where a show of this calibre rightfully belongs.
The rest of the cast included: Will Toye (Bishop) Jackson Palmer (foreman/Courfeyrac) Jay Murray (Bamatabois and Combeferre) Jack Roche (Feuilly) Aidan Cross (Jolly and Les Gles) Charles Goodwill (Grantaire and Montparnasse) Tobyn Thorpe, Hughie Higginson (Gavroche) Grace Tomlinson, Darcie Brown (young Eponine) Suki Holt, Isobel Parker (young Cosette).