The grand finale of Les Miserables was an emotional one for the amazingly talented teenagers of Vision Youth Theatre, and the full-house audience was on its feet before the last note had been sung.

What was going through the minds of the young performers as they marked the end with an after-show party? Had those obscure, chromatic melodies in the scenes of bargains and attacks taken their toll? I sincerely hope not - because they acted and sang as if they loved every moment and they were the characters they played.

Three nights seems a short run for such a grand undertaking. I didn’t catch their third and final night, but I was lucky enough to see their first performance at Milford Haven’s Boulevard Theatre last Thursday and it was so good, I just had to see them a second time. And once again they were fantastic on Friday. I can’t stop thinking about how great they were!

A couple of clips and a medley of photos from the opening night’s performance. Observer video.

Stars… in your multitudes…


Back in 1986, on my 13th birthday, I had the wonderful opportunity to see Les Miserables at London’s West End, so it was interesting to discover that one of the cast members had similarly been able to travel to the big city and witness the stage spectacle in its full glory at a similar age.

The ensemble performs At The End Of The Day
The ensemble performs At The End Of The Day (Behind the Lens Media)

Yesterday I dug out the Original London Cast recording and gave it a listen… and it was enjoyable, of course, but not quite the rich, sweet, genuine, emotional experience that had taken to the stage in Pembrokeshire. It felt like a substitute for the real thing. Is Frances Rufelle’s sharp-toned Eponine the genuine article, or did Eliza Peach just bring her to life? And can Alun Armstrong’s Thénardier still satisfy when Ethan Clancy seems so delightful in the role of the disreputable innkeeper? Yes, this is a cast of under-18s, but don’t underestimate their greatness.

Georgie Rochester as Fantine
Georgie Rochester as Fantine (Behind the Lens Media)

Musically, Les Mis is challenging. Not only is nearly every word sung, but some of them are set to obscure, complicated melodies. Although if you heard how Claire Hooper-Rees carried off those lines when she is nagging the poor young Cosette, you might not have realised quite how difficult they must be to sing.

Then there is all the counterpoint - those many moments when an ensemble divides up with portions singing different words and tunes that interlock in a wonderful way. One Day More is just one example. How chaotic the song could have sounded if the singers had not been in time with each other or out of tune. A Heart Full of Love finds Marius and Cosette harmonising and dovetailing, while Eponine concentrates her regrets into a counter-melody.

So it’s not surprising that phrases like “mind-blowing” and “unbelievable talent” were flooding Vision Arts’ Facebook page in response to the three performances.

One fan commented: “Everybody was amazing! Congratulations to everyone front and back of house. Get them all in the recording studio. We all want to buy their CD.” - yes, indeed we do.

Another one summed it up perfectly: “The calibre of singing was stunning but what really moved me was every single cast member owned their character even when they changed character. Such raw emotion for people so young. They had totally absorbed the storyline and performed with every emotion they had. Can honestly say, having seen it twice in the West End, this performance truly moved me.”

Morgan Lewis as Gavroche
Morgan Lewis as Gavroche (Behind the Lens Media)

I related to the following comment, too: “Wow! What an amazing show. I watched it on Friday and enjoyed it so much went back for seconds on Saturday. So emotional and I wasn't the only person in the audience to say it topped the West End production! Well done all of you. Be proud and now on to the next one. Can't wait!”

One more: “Wow wow wow!!!! I am in absolute awe of the whole cast…. Vision arts youth theatre are absolutely incredible; the future is bright for each and every child in this production.Thank-you Drew [Baker, Director], Clive [Raymond, Musical Director] and Katy [Thomas, Choreographer]. What an amazing cast you have chosen and the roles fit each child, OMG incredible!”

Rhys Williams as Jean Valjean
Rhys Williams as Jean Valjean (Behind the Lens Media)

Director Drew Baker said:“Being part of Les Miserables (school edition) is a big ask - but the young people who made up the cast really did rise to the challenge - and then some.

“They got standing ovations every night - and the comments we received from members of the audience simply blew us all away - but the accolades were well deserved. The teenagers worked so hard and were so dedicated to giving it their all - and the results were astonishing. They turned in performances of real maturity and more than one person said that their work was worthy of any West End cast.

“Vision Arts is all about offering everybody the chance to develop their creativity, we want to make the arts accessible to all, and I am really looking forward to working with some of these cast members - and with some teenagers new to Vision Arts - on our Summer Youth Project performance of We Will Rock You. Les Miserables is going to be a hard act to follow - but I've no doubt that they are up to the challenge and We Will Rock You will be fabulous."

Vision Youth Theatre deserves heaps of admiration for pulling this off. “We are so proud of each and every one of this cast who have worked so hard and every night gave every last drop of emotion on that stage,” said Vision Arts after the final performance.

For a review of the first night performance, click here. Having seen the show a second time I would like to add that ALL of the cast members entered into the spirit, whether their parts were large or small.

A few minor things went wrong on Friday night, like microphones coming unstuck and objects falling onto the stage, but the show certainly did go on, with several principal actors improving on their singing, raising the bar even higher for the Vision Youth Theatre ensemble.

Iestyn Finch as Javert
Iestyn Finch as Javert (Behind the Lens Media)

Coming up at Vision Arts:

  • Vision Youth Theatre (Juniors, aged 7-12) - Alice: The Musical - Thursday, July 13 and Friday, July 14
  • Vision Theatre Company (adults + some children from Vision Youth Theatre) - The Sound of Music - Thursday - Saturday, July 20-22 (plus a matinee on Saturday afternoon)
  • Vision Minis Summer Youth Project - (school years reception, one and two. Project runs for one week) - Show Friday July 28 (show to be announced)
  • Vision Summer Youth Project (ages 7-18) - We Will Rock You (project runs for two whole weeks culminating in show on August 11 and 12)
  • Vision Theatre Company August 18-20 - A musical in 48 hours (show at 7.30pm on the Sunday, show to be confirmed). To celebrate Vision's second birthday the theatre company will develop and rehearse an entire musical theatre production in 48 hours, culminating in a show at the end.

Vision Arts has youth theatres in Haverfordwest, Milford Haven and Tenby. Visit for more details.