Friday, May 5th, 2017.

Excelsior Academy’s Les Misérables cast

Standing ovations, rave reviews and audiences moved to tears.

Excelsior Academy’s production of the West End blockbuster Les Misérables has been hailed a huge success by everyone privileged to see it play out over two nights.

The cast of 45 pupils under the musical direction of Michael Davison and the multi-talented production team brought the house down with their performances of the story of life and love in 19th Century France.

The young cast – some of which had never set foot on a stage before – delivered stunning performances of the smash hit show which has played to 70 million people across the globe.

Les Misérables: School Edition was the most ambitious production ever attempted by Excelsior Academy.

It’s massive stage set, multiple costume changes, relentless pacing and pressure it places on its young cast to act and sing their way through nearly three hours of intense plot, made their triumph all the more spectacular.

Michael said: “Les Misérables demonstrates that if you constantly have high expectations and stretch and challenge our pupils, then just look at what they are capable of achieving.

“The music is a very, very difficult score, it’s very hard to learn, everything is sung all the way through, it’s an opera really and every line delivered in the show has to be timed critically with the music.

“I felt extremely proud. When I went back stage after the performances and congratulated the cast, I was overwhelmed with emotion.

“We have produced this in 14 weeks which is incredible. It’s worth every minute of it when you see what they delivered. They have produced something which is outstanding and astonishing which they can take with them into the rest of their lives.

“How many children can say they have performed in Les Mis? They are our first dramatic performances where we have had a full standing ovation from the audience – people were standing and clapping before the performance had even ended.”

Michael paid special tribute to stage director Holly Knox, who shared his initial vision of bringing Les Misérables to Excelsior and to vocal coach Michelle Tufnell who moulded the raw talent, turning young performers into stage stars.

Milan Kroka, who played lead character, hero and ex-convict Jean Valjean, said: “We put in three days of practice every week and came in during the holidays too.

“We don’t normally do this, we are just used to singing pop songs. We had to act and sing but I knew we had a phenomenal cast who could do this.

“The response was so emotional. The scenes where we were supposed to cry, that wasn’t fake crying, those were real tears. Before this show, I never thought of doing theatre, but now it’s definitely becoming a thought of doing theatre as a career when I’m older.”

Sarah Lamb, who played the tragic and heroic Eponine, said: “It was amazing, it was a show that I never thought I’d cry at but at the end I was sobbing my heart out.

“When you got on the stage, the audience applauding and their vibe was amazing. It made me want to act even more. I’d never heard of Les Mis and now we have done it.”

Robbie Landreth, who played the comedic, cruel and wretched landlord M. Thénardier, had barely set foot on a stage before his Les Mis bow.

“People say I’m a comedic actor and I don’t find it difficult as I’m in my element,” he said. “It was absolutely surreal the feedback we got. I’d seen the show before, the film and I wasn’t sure if they were going to like me as the character or not.

“But all today I’ve just been getting praise off everyone. They said I had them in creases! I’ve taken a lot more confidence and people skills; before the show I wouldn’t perform in front of anyone but now it’s given me the confidence to talk to more people around school.”

Craig Taylor, Excelsior Academy Executive Principal, said: “I had the great pleasure and privilege to see the magnificent production of Les Misérables.

“Like everyone else who was lucky enough to be there, I was absolutely blown away by the quality and professionalism of the performance.

“Already, I have been inundated with messages of praise and congratulations from other audience members – governors, councillors, all of whom were amazed that a school production could be so good.

“The performing arts team are to be congratulated for having the courage and faith in the pupils to mount such an ambitious and challenging show – it really was outstanding.”

Les Misérables cast: Milan Kroka, Caitlin Howey, Christian Walton, Charlotte Carney-Harrop, Sorin Petru, Melissa Corbett, Robbie Landreth, Morgan Hardy, Sarah Lamb, Dylan Garrett, Dylan Yearnshire.

James Robson, Angelica Akika, Jemima Kimvula, Lara Garrett, Allana Gomes, Kira Thomson, Courtney Todd, Chelsea Cleminson, Megan Greener, Niomi Nesbitt, Sophie Watson, Kerry Cather, Matthew Schofield, Rainbird Primary, Sommer Hannon, Kerrie Anderson, Kaitlin Iceton, Oscar McKiddie, Elga Negana, Lucy Todd.

Production Team: Michael Davison, Holly Knox, Michelle Tufnell, Dermott Mullin, Radafina Petleshkova, Ruth Mulligan, Anthony Carville, Andy Davison, Deon Krishnan, Tracey Kelly, Jen Buck and Vasile Tocila. Technical team and set up: The Undefined Group. Costumes and props: Spotlight Productions.

Sponsors: Capita, Stagecoach and Lookers with many thanks also to the Community Foundation for their donation towards the show.