Farewell, Les Misérables / by Rob Halliday

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A sad day: Saturday 13th July 2019 saw the final performance of the original and best Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre in London.

Les Mis opened at London’s Barbican Theatre in October 1985, transferring to the Palace Theatre in December that year; it moved to the Queen’s in April 2004.

Rob’s connection with the show began with the 10th Anniversary Concert at the Royal Albert Hall in December 1995, creating the light curtain flag for the triumphant end of the first act. That image can still be seen on the cover of the recording of that event.

Having worked with lighting designer David Hersey since 1993, Rob was then involved in the introduction of moving lights to Les Mis for the 1997 UK tour, originally with the aim simply to cut down on focus time on the road, but in fact allowing David Hersey to revisit the show and add some more precise detail and some greater variation in colour range. That tour used DHA’s Digital Light Curtains alongside High End StudioColors, with the entire rig - conventional and moving lights - controlled from one single lighting console, an approach that was unusual then but the standard way of working now.

That production formed the basis of the tenth anniversary Australian production of the show later the same year, a production which toured the world for several years, and then the Belgian production of the show in Antwerp in 1998. He was also involved with the show’s return to New York in 2006.

The moving light element of the rig was expanded for the transfer to the Queen’s. adding Pitching Digital Light Curtains, swapping the StudioColors for Vari-Lite VL2000s, and adding some Vari-Lite VL3500s for gobo work, including projecting the show’s famous captions.

Les Mis is a remarkable show, a remarkable piece of theatre, a remarkable production created by Trevor Nunn, John Caird, designer John Napier, lighting designer David Hersey and costume designer Andreanne Neofitou,” Rob comments. “It was an honour and a privilege to be a tiny part of the show’s history, to get to see just how this brilliant, magical piece of staging worked- though I have to say that watching the production for the last time just before it closed, as an audience member, no headset on, no cues to worry about, there were still moments that took me completely by surprise! It is an amazing creation, made by an amazing team. It will be missed.”

Rob notes also the countless people who have looked after the show with such care over the years, including associate lighting designers Jenny Kagan, Ted Mather, Rachael McCutcheon and the late Richard Pacholski, and the countless electricians who have looked after the rig, run the console (and smoke!) or driven the show’s followspots, including Mike Cordina and his team at the Queen’s Theatre.

Les Mis is just one of the many shows Rob worked on for Cameron Mackintosh (programming just about every one of the producer’s shows from 1994’s Oliver through to 2010’s Betty Blue Eyes). It was also one show out of the many on which he collaborated with David Hersey, starting with Piaf in 1993 and on through such notable productions as Oklahoma!, Miss Saigon, the Tony-award winning Equus and most recently Showboat at the New London Theatre.

Rob writing about Les Mis in The Stage: [link]
The Official Les Misérables website: [link]