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Les Miserables School Edition as presented by Bellvue Academy of Performing Arts


21st February – 25th February 2024

Adjudication Performance 23rd February 2024

The White Memorial Theatre is in the town of Clonmel, with an atmosphere of peace in this building and a treasure chest of memories of previous shows adorning every single wall of the entrance and along the halls leading to the auditorium, which was so lovely to see and I was struck by the quirkiness and the warmth of The White Memorial Theatre from the moment I stepped into this hidden gem in Clonmel. Bellevue Academy is just eight years old with an abundance of talent within it and this evenings Performance was a real treat.

The Director of this show is Ms. Lisa Kelly. The Producer was Ms Ellen Foley. They are a good team. Ms. Kelly displayed strong leadership skills and a remarkable talent in guiding the cast and company through the challenges of staging such a detailed and complex production in a tiny space. It is evident throughout this show that Ms. Kelly's brought out the best in this very young cast, and along with Ms. Foley's Production, these combined resulted in a memorable performance that the audience loved. You could hear a pin drop in many of the scenes. “On My Own,” “A Heart Full of Love,” “Bring Him Home,” and “Stars.” Each of these numbers was so emotionally charged, with Ms. Kelly's direction and Ms Foley’s Production, with enormous attention to detail throughout. There were also many moving elements, such as Gavroche being shot, Fantine’s' solo, and her love for Marius. “On My Own” Jean Valjean’s death was heart-breaking and hauntingly beautiful, along with a lovely Chorus. I loved the attention to detail when the chorus ladies were wrapping bandages into little rounds and placing them in baskets, preparing for the upcoming upheaval and bloodshed in the battle at the Barricade. The lovely placing of the chorus ensemble consistently in little pockets or groups, “Do you Hear the People Sing,” “Master of the House,” and “One Day More.” The Full Company looked fantastic on stage, beautifully placed, and acted and sang. Well done, Ms Kelly & Ms Foley. You have a lovely flair in your Direction, which I like, and I congratulate you.

The choreographer was Ms Claire O’Hara (also Stage Manager). Ms. O’Hara had quite a difficult task, having seen the backstage space of this pretty theatre, and believe me, I know there was very little space on and off the stage, as already mentioned. “Do You Hear the People Sing” was beautifully moved, with the cast moving surrounding Enjolras, circling him slowly as they sang, danced, and moved, slowly moving off the stage upstage right in movement, disappearing into the wings delicately. “Master of The House” was a highlight of the show. What fun, life, colour, and energy. Beautifully moved, it was a joy to watch with not a foot wrong by the cast and principals in this lovely number. It was very well rehearsed and a visual treat. Choreography throughout was slick professional and enhanced this show continuously. Well done Ms O’Hara on your lovely Choreography throughout. Visually a treat and perfectly blended into this show effectively.

Musical Director was Niall Kelly. This Orchestra was in front of the stage in the traditional “pit” with Mr Kelly at the helm conducting. This was an extremely professional and beautifully sounding Orchestra. A confident, sweet, controlled group of very talented people who brought this show to life beautifully. Not a note out of place. Never too loud, it produced this beautiful warm tone and sound consistently throughout the theatre for the complete duration with no weak link. It was a seamless melodic, gorgeous tone and an excellent accompaniment for this very young cast of actors, and under Mr. Kelly's Musical Direction, every song built on that success. “Bring Him Home,” “Stars,” “One Day More,” “A Heart Full of Love,” and “On My Own” to the loud boom of the “Barricade” back to the soulful “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” was breath-taking in sound and musicality. The Orchestra and Musical Director here, I must say, were a highlight of the performance. Thanks to the skill and dedication of Mr Kelly. You brought the world of 19th-century France to life.

The Stage Manager was Ms. Claire O’Hara, again, I refer to this theatre's confined spaces behind and on both sides of the stage. Yet, there was a lot of “Set,” loads of movement of the Sets on and off, regularly, with many, many changes from Cosette's Death Bed to the Barricade to the slummy, dank, dismal foggy scene of The Docks, The Inn, The Bridge for Javerts Suicide, The Café, Rue Pummet and The Sewers, And of course that Barricade which was a massive success. The arrival of the Gates showing the entrance to Jean Valjean's house allows Eponine to sing from behind them, for Marius and Cosette to sing in front of them, and then seamlessly move off stage at the end of the scene. So many areas involving Ms O’Hara in her Stage Manager role were so effective, yet it looked simple, which I know it most definitely was not. From what I saw after the show, your organizational skills were top-notch, which in turn showed your dedication and professionalism to your role, and you succeeded magnificently in this—well done.

Sets, Set Design and Construction was by Anthony Lawless. The rifles, each hand-made, the attention to detail here was astounding, the gates into the sewers, the movable stairs used for many scenes, the excellent barricade. There is incredible attention to detail here. The plaster peeling off the walls, Cosette's bedroom window stage lit up beautifully, the bridge Javert jumps from, the stonewall the width of the back of the stage, I could go on. The sets for this production were practical, and a huge success. Congratulations, Mr Lawless.

The Sound Engineer was Mr Pat Murnane. The sound was balanced throughout for the most part. I felt that some of the sound when the actors spoke was a little lost once or twice. And I could not hear the dialogue and, in some parts, the singing, particularly with Jean Valjean in Act 1, where I lost some of the vocals and speaking lines. The sound notwithstanding the above was very good, particularly in the Ensemble Full Company numbers, where the roof was lifted. In the quieter moments in some parts of the show, I again struggled to hear some of the lines, which were a bit distracting. Chorus and Company made a great sound vocally, particularly in the more significant ensemble numbers and for the characters such as Javert, Eponine, and Little Cosette.

Lighting Design and Operator was Alan McCormack. I loved the lighting throughout. The blue hue on the stage floor and the magnificent spots on the entrances to the Sewers in Act 2 were very clever and successful. The Barricade with the flashing lights, spots moving, the lights on the Company for the battle, the beautiful lighting on Jean Valjean in the Barricade scene where everyone else seemed to fade into the shadows, and he sat there face haunted, shook, bewildered and numb. The lighting here was simply superb.

Eponine's solo “On My Own” was a highlight, so sympathetic to the sadness of her singing and her unrequited love for Marius, she knew she would never be his. The lighting created lovely shadows and did have a significant effect on this show's success. It played a massive part in the emotional side of the story, drawing the audience into the scenes of sadness, fun, death, sorrow, and, most of all, love.

Costumes, Hair & Makeup and Props. This production excelled in each of these areas. The costumes were authentic and appropriate, great visually, and overall superb. The Costumes were a vision of colour in places and a vision of sadness and death in other parts. I particularly loved the Costumes of Monsieur Thenardier (the shoes and hat!) and Madame Thenardier’ “Frock” to mention but two. Principals' and Chorus' costumes alike were brilliant and added an extra dimension to the show's success. The hair was fabulous, with great attention to detail and appropriateness. Props by Andrew Lawless and Bellevue Academy, with Props Master Liadhain O’Shea, were very good. The Flag, the baskets of wrapped bandages made by the ladies during the Barricade scenes, the mincer machine! The humble candlesticks in the sewer in Paris were very well done, creating a visually encaptivating world for your audience and adding beautifully to the visual overall. Hair and Makeup was by Gillian Scully and Nicole Breen. Great attention to detail here, particularly with Cosette's wig when her hair was chopped to pieces in the Docks Scene, along with Mdme Thernardier's hair. The aging of Jean Valjean with the hairpiece attached to the back of his head worked and certainly made him appear much older. Bravo, team Costumes, Hair, and Makeup; props on your success here.

Nathan Dalton played the part of Jean Valjean. Mr Dalton delivered a heartfelt and emotional performance. Overall, he had a charming stage presence, good vocals although a little light in places, but this was a massive sing for Mr Dalton at his young age and a role he played very well. Mr Dalton’s lovely character and the emotional depth of his portrayal of this character shone through creating a Jean Valjean to be proud of at this young age. Mr Dalton showed a strong understanding of this role and maturity beyond his years. You were a character to be loved. To be respected. And the critical role in this massive production, and I commend you, Mr. Dalton, you were a fabulous Jean Valjean, and your character was someone I endeared myself to immediately.

Cathal Walsh played the part of Javert. Mr. Walsh played a vital role so very well. The lovely, intense vocal. “Stars” was a highlight sung with pleasant emotion, perfect tone of voice, and enjoyable rapport with yourself and Jean Valjean. Again, it is hard to believe your age playing this massive and considerable role vocally. You were commanding in relentlessly pursuing justice and unbending dedication to the law. You had an air of authority, and your rich, resonant voice only added to your character. Your solos, particularly “Stars,” was immense, and you delivered a standout performance. You brought Javert to life darkly and memorably, and you enhanced this production greatly with your emotional strength and acting skills. You had an outstanding stage presence and maintained that relentless pursuit of Jean Valjean until you died by your hand. A powerful Javert, Mr Walsh.

Millie O’Sullivan played the part of Fantine. A gorgeous, pretty character with a glorious voice, particularly in your beautiful version of “I Dreamed a Dream.” Your love for your daughter Cosette was unending. You looked great, with lovely costumes and a voice like honey that endeared me to you greatly from the moment you arrived on stage. Your voice is eloquent and natural with a great range, and you sang from your heart I sincerely applaud you on the lovely Fantine you were throughout. Well done Ms O’Sullivan.

Keenan Scully played Monsieur Thenardier. Fantastic costume, wit, stage appearance, dance moves, and what total and absolute fun you were in this role, Mr Scully. You were a beacon of light in the darkness from the moment you stepped on stage. A “scallywag,” as you would be called in Wexford, you had an impishness about you that I loved. “Master of The House” brought the house down, and rightly so. Great facial expression, very agile and stage light, moved about very freely, and I think you enjoyed this part immensely, Mr Scully, and it showed. You are a natural on stage. Well done, and I hope you remain involved in the future, as you have the appearance and the talent.

Caitlin Fanning played Madame Thenardier. You lit up the stage with your bubbly character, joie de vivre, the somewhat quirky yet lovely relationship with your husband Monsieur Thenardier, great comedy, and an infectious smile. You had an adorable expression: shock, pity, happiness, disdain, horror, or comedy. Again, I remind myself of your age. You were fabulous. Great costume, lovely singing voice, an adorable couple you made with Monsieur Thenardier, and an enjoyable rapport together. You hit off one another and watching you in this role was a joy. Fabulous costume again, and you moved around that stage like you were born on it, with such ease and fluidity. A significant role played by a great young lady.

Ódhran Williams played the Bishop of Digne. That lovely cameo part was well played with great empathy shown in your character for Jean Valjean, and you were a crucial part in the story and the success of the show with beautiful, eloquent, and clear diction. You were a wise, kind character with a strong faith, trying to bring hope and forgiveness to a dark and cruel world in your quest to save Jean Valjean from the gallows.

Aoibhe Condon played Cosette. What a gorgeous character you were, Ms Condon, in your role as Cosette. Magnificent vocally, pretty, dressed beautifully, a love like no other for Jean Valjean, and the love for Marius was heartfelt. You were a sweet character, longing for love and a better life. Your innocence was so lovely, and yet you were brave. Your vocals were stunning, and the scene where you had to say goodbye to your beloved Papa, Jean Valjean, was heart-breaking and beautiful. Your voice was as clear as a star on a cloudless night, and I loved you in this role again; it's hard to believe again, you are so young—well done. Ms Condon.

Saoirse Scully played Eponine. Again, it was beautifully played. What an actress and singer. Your song “On My Own” was a highlight of this performance. You looked great. Your costumes were perfect. A tomboyishness about you endeared me to you from the moment you arrived on stage. There was a quality to your voice that was so crystal clear and melodic. I loved it, massive congratulations to you in this role, Ms Scully. And I do hope you enjoyed being Eponine, as your audience enjoyed you in the role.

Cormac O’Donovan played Marius. A powerful Marius again with a lovely vocal and stage appearance. This was a part played with emotion, love, and passion. Furthermore, an enjoyable verbal and magnificent stage rapport with Eponine, and the love of your passion, Cosette, and indeed the respect and love you had for Jean Valjean and he for you showed you in this role as a gentleman friend and protector, and you were simply superb. I loved this character and the part you made of it from start to finish; Mr O’Donovan, again wiser than your years, played this part beautifully.

Sean Savage played the part of Gavroche. What a lively young man you are, Mr Savage. A gorgeous stage presence and a wonderful cheeky chappie with charm oozing from your bones. I LOVED your part, Mr Savage, and I and many others were so genuinely sad when you died in the arms of your friends in the Barricade. You were a shining star in this production, Mr Savage. The part was made for you, and I sincerely hope you continue your Theatre and your stages for a long time to come, as you most certainly have the talent.

Ciaran Cotter played Enjolras. What a fantastic, strong stage presence this young man possesses. Vocally superb. A leader. A warrior. And a fighter. Passionate, courageous, and strong, you held your position with conviction and unwavering commitment to your fight for freedom and justice. You were a hero with a fantastic voice and an excellent stage presence who inspired others to stand up and fight.

Other parts contributing to this show's overall performance and success were Little Cosette and Little Eponine, played by Lucy Corcoran and Doireann Scully, Cora O’Flynn, and Kate Murphy, respectively. Stars. There are many smaller cameo parts in this production too many to list here, but you all had a massive part to play in this performance and its success with lovely vocals and enhanced the production wonderfully. As a group and individually you were all absolutely magnificent.

The Chorus Mistress was Ms Mary Rose McNally. Congratulations, Ms McNally, on the trojan work done here with all the musical numbers in this show, all sung beautifully and with emotion and passion. Songs such as “One Day More,” “Do You Hear the People Sing,” “The Barricade,” and “Master of the House” the list of songs goes on and on. Yet, the balance and sound remained the same – truly lovely in tone and musicality throughout and no mean achievement given the actual amount of Chorus numbers in the show. Working as Chorus Mistress with this company, their singing brought colour and life to this performance and you sounded adorable as a unit. Well done to Ms Mc Nally and you all. A wonderful Chorus. And indeed, a highlight throughout. Congratulations.

You are all so young! (And then some a little older!) ….With so much talent in adults and students. I had a charming evening in this beautiful theatre you call home, and I was sad to leave as I was made to feel so welcome. Bravo to everyone and thank you so much for making my journey so memorable and unique from the moment I stepped into “The White Memorial Theatre,” your home. I applaud all of you and wish you all well and continued success. It was indeed a pleasure to be with you all this evening. I wish you nothing but happiness and an abundance of successful years in the future to continue in the vision you produced here in Clonmel. Congratulations.

Caroline Daly Jones

Sullivan Adjudicator 2023 / 2024

Some photos kindly shared by the society - Photographers - John Kelly / Cathy Murphy


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