Armed with constant punch lines and French accents of varying quality, Tres Miserables arrives on stage with bayonets blazing. Taking satirical aim at priests, socialist uni students and French people in general, Tres Miserables also gifts us some inspired comedic timing and amusing performances.
After Jean Valjean (Sam Garlepp) is freed from servitude and the totally non-platonic surveillance of Javert (Lachlan McKenzie), he winds up with daughter Cosette (Alice Tovey) and a hankering to be a new man. But when Cosette grows up and meets Marius (McKenzie), Valjean is embroiled in the revolution and the weirdness that goes along with it.
Indeed, any performance giving top billing to a Runaway Cart (Tovey) can be counted on to be a little bizarre.
The comedy/cabaret is a very condensed version of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and inevitably pokes fun at Tom Hooper’s recent big screen adaptation. It’s also been updated to include satire of modern culture and current news. Selfies from the barricade, anyone?
Iconic musical theatre numbers were given a quick once over with a shovel; ‘On My Own’ becomes an ode to sexual frustration while ‘One Day More’ now signals the performance is past the half way mark. Every song will leave you giggling or squirming in discomfort, just the first indication of the actors pushing the boundaries of appropriateness.
Tres Miserables is exceptionally self-aware, with nods to the absurdity of the source material littered throughout. They continuously allude to their tiny cast and low production values without taking themselves too seriously. In one memorable scene where Marius is proposing to Cosette, Garlepp, Tovey and McKenzie are forced to incessantly swap their roles in a slapstick manner.
The other scene and character changes often feel rushed, as delivered lines are ignored for the distraction of someone still hurriedly organizing their costume. It’s not exactly a seamless production, but it’s laugh-out-loud hilarious and that’s what really matters.
Garlepp does much of the heavy lifting plot wise as the somewhat dubious Valjean, while Tovey uses her impressive vocal range to remind us it is actually a musical. McKenzie picks up all the hilarious bit parts and one-liners, eventually becoming the cast member you refuse to take your eyes off, knowing something brilliant is coming up and he rarely disappoints. The three of them are obviously comfortable playing off one-another and their pianist Ned Dixon, which gives Tres Miserables a dynamic atmosphere.
Tres Miserables is a hysterical reimaging of Hugo’s monolithic work, entertaining musical theatre junkies and first-timers alike. Grab a baguette and 2460-run to catch a cabaret that is anything but miserable.