Emily Langridge and Chris Durling talk to Andrew Fuhrmann about the power and spectacle that is Les Mis
AndIt's a moment to treasure for musical theatre devotees: the Australian return of Les Misérables, one of the world's biggest, most involving stage musicals. This revamped production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's epic romance, with new orchestration and flash new stage effects, has already broken box-office records across North America.
For Emily Langridge and Chris Durling, two young performers in the early bright of their careers, it's a challenge and an opportunity unlike anything they've seen before.
"From the first magic notes, right from the start, you're gripped," says Langridge, "and then it's just an emotional roller coaster. The scoring is so huge, so dramatic, with so much heart."
Langridge sings the role of Cossette, the child worker rescued by Jean Valjean who later falls in love with a dashing young revolutionary lawyer. Vibrant and charming, she brings a fantasy touch of the girl next door to Cosette's all but angelic graces.
"I never had much of a knack for anything else," says the self-confessed musical theatre obsessive. "I left normal high school to do musical theatre full time, then went to WAAPA. My personality suits it."
Does she sparkle?
"Yes, I guess I'm very theatrical."
Chris Durling, a bluff young tenor who played Doody in John Frost's recent Grease revival, is Enjolras, the charismatic revolutionary leader.
"I think in some ways I'm perfect for Enjolras," says Durling. "It doesn't really come down to whether my look is wrong or right. I feel like I very much have the same mental traits. I always have passionate opinions, whether the topic is big or small. My fear of ruffling a few feathers is less than my desire to speak up for the things I believe in."
But he will be looking the part, too, once he gets inside Enjolras's trademark blond wig and red jacket.
"I had my wig fitting a couple of months ago. It was weird," admits Durling, who grew up in a small town in north-east Victoria. "I've never felt that sensation of hair dangling at my shoulders."
For all the excitement, however, the show will be a gruelling test for the young leads.
"This is such a large scale production, and so much bigger than anything I've done before," says Emily Langridge. "As well as being show-fit you have to have emotional stamina."
At least for Cosette the night finishes on a hopeful note. For Enjolras, it ends with one of theatre's most iconic death scenes. It's a challenge for any actor, to go down in a blaze of glory, night after night.
"In Grease I felt like the load was half on the voice and half on the body, whereas with Les Mis I feel like the load is half on the voice and half on the brain," says Durling. "I'm sure I'll have a few more grey hairs before I'm finished."
A good thing he has such a fetching blond wig.
Les Misérables, Her Majesty's Theatre, Jun 22-Sep 28