Les Miserables is arguably one of the most successful and beloved musicals of all time.
As the longest running musical in the West End it has sparked a number of tours, anniversary performances and of course that Oscar winning movie adaptation where in Hugh Jackman took on the iconic role of escaped convict Jean Valjean.
So as a musical known and loved by so many, taking on any of the lead roles in the show is a daunting task for even the most seasoned of performers.
And yet a cast of 80 young and aspiring actors and actresses from across the North West will play out the roles of the musical on stage at the Millennium Forum from July 31 to August 2.
The ‘Journal’ caught up with four of the principal cast members to find out if the experience was daunting, enjoyable or a bit of a both.
For Derry student Conan McCreadie - who is currently studying at Queen’s University - the show will see him take on one of the biggest roles in theatre - that of Jean Valjean.
“The show covers around 40 years in Valjean’s life - so there will be a lot of costume changes for me. I’ll have to put talcum powder in my hair to give me that grey look.”
As Vajean Conan delivers some of the big numbers of the show - but his favourite song may not be what everyone things.
“Everyone expects me to say ‘Bring Him Home’ is my favourite song but I definitely prefer singing ‘Who Am I?’ and hitting that big note at the end.”
For Conan this is the first time he has taken part in one of the Millennium Forum’s Youth Theatre productions - which he admits was intimidating at first as many of the cast return year after year to the group.
“I didn’t know if I would show up on the first day and people would be welcoming or not. I was the new person and I was coming in with role of Jean Valjean! But everyone immediately felt me feel at home.”
Catriona Williams, from Donegal Town, found herself in a similar position having secured the coveted role of Eponine.
Also facing her first time on the Forum stage, Catriona knew she would be facing stiff competition for the role, which brings with it the solo of ‘On My Own’.
“I was so worried about auditioning for the role because I knew it would be hugely competitive. Even as I sat outside the auditions I could hear girl after girl after girl singing ‘On My Own’ - and I did consider changing roles but in the end I decided to just go with it because that song is my tune.
“I could not be happier to get the role of Eponine - it just my dream role.”
Indeed Catriona is so committed to the role she travels for more than two and half hours each day to make the rehearsals at the Forum - “but I am loving every minute,” she said.”
Leon Armstrong from Claudy is another new comer to the Youth Theatre - and another young person to take on a lead role. The performing arts student will be portraying police inspector Javert - who relentlessly chases Valjean through the decades.
The experience has been an entirely new one for Leon - who has never sung in musical theatre before. A trained dancer he has traditionally sung pop music.
“Getting the role of Javert - who has such amazing songs to sing such as ‘Stars’ has been a challenge - but I have loved getting to know the score.
“The more we have rehearsed, the more I have gotten to know the role and the musical and his motivations and I have really enjoyed it.”
Sixteen years old Niamh McCay from Derry does have experience of the Forum’s Youth Theatre having appeared in two previous productions.
This time round she gets to take on the role of the formidable Madame Thernardier - the bawdy innkeeper who provides some much needed comic relief in the show.
“This is the funniest thing I have ever done,” Niamh said. “I just love singing ‘Master of the House’. Everything else in the musical is so serious - it will have the tears running down your face - but then I get to stand up and hopefully make people laugh - and forget that everyone else is dying!” Niamh laughs.
While this is Niamh’s third time with the company she admits this show is on a bigger scale than anything she has done before.
“The logistics of it are just something else. But it will all come together and it will be a brilliant show.”
Les Miserables runs at The Millennium From from July 31- August 2. To book visit www,millenniumforum.com or call 71264455.