It’s ironic that a musical about poor French people has become the staple of London’s tourist-gorged West End.
Tres Miserables is aware of this and exploits the show mostly to its own advantage. Riffing off the 2012 film, the Seemingly Evil Productions team make jokes about baguettes, women, and priests, but they also throw in some highly satisfying jabs at Socialist Alternative. The sillier moments in Les Mis are predictably exposed, which make for safe, enjoyable entertainment.
This production can seem juvenile and ‘studenty’ at times, but there is enough wit to surprise. Sam Garlepp occasionally suffers ‘On His Own’, but his end-of-scene quips display good comic timing. Although Alice Tovey’s vocals are strong, her self-deprecation is most interesting to watch. Lachie McKenzie steals the show, his stage presence and narration providing an intoxicating backdrop for the others to play with. The power dynamics between these actors sustained my interest and I hope they will continue to explore their onstage relationships.
Costuming was simple and appropriate (I enjoyed the tights). Keyboardist Ned Dixon kept comic pace. Scene transitions were an issue, as the constant lighting and costume changes interrupted the fluidity of the show. This tended to reduce Tres Mis to a number of short gags, holding together because of the source material rather than because of creative consistency. Nonetheless, both actors and audience found genuine pleasure on opening night, and I walked out of The Swanston Hotel humming.
Tres Miserables is on at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival at The Swanston Hotel from 27 March to 5 April.