Musical Theatre Dunedin Presents Les Miserables - May 2020, Regent Theatre

Q & A with Ben and Lara

Monday 16th December 2019

We sat down with Ben Thomas and Lara Davidson who will play the young lovers Marius and Cosette so we could get to know a bit more about them and their characters who become the symbol of hope and love in this epic production of Les Misérables.

What was the first thing you saw on stage that had an impact on you?

Ben: The first musical I ever saw was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat out at the Coronation Hall in Mosgiel. I remember being so entertained and inspired as a young kid, and all these years later I’m friends with many of the cast and crew. Very weirdly I had this exact discussion with the guy who played Enjolras opposite me in Les Mis in Hamilton in 2017, and we were both mind-blown to realise that he actually played Joseph in that production while studying in Dunedin.

Lara: Beauty and the Beast when I was 6. Both of my parents had leading roles in the production and I was so proud of them I knew I wanted to do the same.


What was the most recent thing you saw on stage?

Ben: I’ve just got back from an OE in London so it’s been a year crammed full of shows - the most recent was the Dolly Parton classic 9 to 5.

Lara: The Royal New Zealand’s Ballet - Hansel and Gretel.


What made you audition for Les Misérables?

Ben: I’ve done the show twice before and it’s such an iconic musical that you can’t help but want to revisit the material from a new perspective. The characters and their relationships are so well written that I think you could perform this show for a lifetime and still learn new things about them with each performance.

Lara: It is without a doubt the most iconic musical in my opinion, and to be in it, in even a small role, would be incredibly worth it.


What do you like about your character? Do you relate to them at all?

Ben: I love how Marius isn’t afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve. This probably isn’t a trait that we share, nor is his highly impulsive nature, but I do relate to his passion and fierce loyalty to his friends. His journey also becomes a pretty dark one and he has to deal with a lot of grief which I think we can all relate to on some level.


Future dream roles?

Ben: Elder Price in The Book of Mormon, Prince Hans in Frozen, Christian in the new Moulin Rouge musical - obviously I’m a fan of the cheesy ones!

Lara: Peggy Sawyer - 42nd Street.


How do you unwind after a show or during a rehearsal period?

Ben: I love getting to know all of the people involved with the production. Any show, but especially one of this scale, attracts some very passionate, clever and creative people and nothing beats sitting around and having a drink and a yarn with them and appreciating the vast network of individuals that contributes to a production.

Lara: I always need at least an hour at home to wind down before I go to sleep. I will usually watch a favourite trashy TV show and steam my voice right before bed.


If you could switch a song in the show with someone else, what song would it be and why?

Ben: I think Bring Him Home is one of the most beautiful songs ever written for theatre so I’d love to have a crack at that. Then again it requires some intense vocal athleticism so I’m also perfectly content just to lie on stage and pretend to sleep while listening to James nail it.

Lara: I would switch with Marius and sing ‘Empty chairs at Empty tables’ as it’s such an emotional song and builds so well -  it gives me chills listening to it.

Q & A with James and Greg

Tuesday 12th November 2019


Two locals who are at the peak of their musical theatre careers in Dunedin are set to square off against each other in a reimagined production of Les Misérables at the Regent Theatre in May 2020.

We sat down with James Adams and Greg MacLeod who will play Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert respectively to get their perspective on the musical, the characters they are playing, how they are preparing for their journey into Victor Hugo’s epic tale of redemption and some insight into their careers and work ethic.

What was the first thing you saw on stage that had an impact on you?

James: The first show I remember well is Dunedin Operatic's production of ‘Me and My Girl’, with Derek Metzger. I remember him coming along to a school assembly and getting everyone to do bits of the show. I was totally hooked. The show had such energy and joy. I loved it.

Greg: A hypnotist when I was 11. It was like watching magic. The hypnotist made himself invisible and picked me up from the audience and 'flew' me around the stage. The people on stage who were hypnotised held their hands to their mouths, aghast. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to perform and move people.

What was the last thing you saw on stage?

James: Technically speaking, Postmodern Jukebox, who were huge and energetic and so skilled. Last musical was Taieri Musical’s, Blood Brothers. Stunning.

Greg: War Horse. I cried and I can't remember when I last felt so moved by a performance.

What made you audition for Les Misérables?

James: It is such a classic – the music is great, the characters are great, the staging is great, the show is wonderful. The character of Jean Valjean is the King Lear of musical theatre roles for a male and is a bucket list role that you just want to take on.

Greg: During 2001-2002, the last time Les Misérables did the rounds in New Zealand, I was in the ensemble for the Dunedin and Wellington seasons. I was inspired by all the lead actors’ performances and ever since I have waited patiently for the opportunity to audition.

How do you go about making the role your own?

James: It's sort of like getting to know someone. Taking time getting to know him really well. I try to build up the character slowly, experimenting with different ways of doing things and finding what fits. I'll use my own experience where I can to try and get an idea of how he would feel in certain situations and reading or watching other things that can give me a window into Valjean's experience. For instance, for Phantom, I read a few papers and essays on how people are affected by being disfigured. For Valjean I'll be looking for stuff about what forced labour was like in the 1800's. It begins as a sort of a history exercise, and over time I try to boil that down to understand his view of life and how he would respond to things; how he would feel and act, and how I can embody those things.

Greg: I try and forget any other actor's performance of the role that I have seen and play it from a place of first instinct. I talk to Heidi, my wife, about the character and discuss what motivates them. I read a lot and I use inspiration from other characters that are similar. I always like to move as they would, I ask myself questions like, does Javert lead from the head, the heart, the belly or the groin. I try not to act when I am on stage, I just am, and the little bits of Greg pop out and form a unique character.

What kind of research will you do for Javert?

Greg: I read the novel earlier this year to prep for the audition. I will read it again with fresh eyes and pay closer attention to Javert's role. Victor Hugo's writing is the first inspiration for this timeless story, and I will go there. I will want to understand how a person can come from poverty to being a police inspector - his novel follows Valjean's story, however, Valjean holds a mirror up for Javert and I wonder if that is why he despises him so much, because, we are repulsed often by seeing ourselves in others.

Future dream roles?

James: I'm a bit of a sucker for classics. I always wanted to play Tony in West Side Story, but I'm probably a bit past that now! I love Jesus Christ Superstar, and I'd love to have a stab at Judas or Jesus. Archibald Craven in The Secret Garden would be wonderful. And I'd love one day to return to the first lead role I ever had, at high school: Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.

Greg: I have to play Jesus or Judas in JC Superstar, I just love the story and music - I played Jesus when I was 21 but at 40 I think I could properly do it justice. There is also a musical called Once where the protagonist (Guy) is a busker who plays the guitar. And...I would love to play Frank N. Furter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

How do you unwind after a show?

James: During the season I'm pretty boring I'm afraid. I generally like to take things quietly. A quiet cup of tea on my own while my head stops spinning, thinking over the show, recalling what worked or didn't work so well. Maybe then watch something, read or listen to a podcast, something totally unrelated. Then I try and get some sleep to be in good form for the next night's show.

Greg: I have a shower and wash my character and makeup down the drain. The adrenalin is always pumping so I like to chat with the other cast members and then I switch off by reading.

If you could switch a song in the show with someone else, what song would it be and why?

James: There are so many good songs. Winner by a nose is Empty Chairs at Empty Tables; it's beautiful music, a wonderful sweeping melody, coupled with a dramatic, haunting lyric. There's so much you can do and communicate with it. Close runners up: Javert's suicide, Fantine's ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ and Thenardier's ‘Dog Eat Dog’.

Greg: I do love ‘Bring Him Home’, it's like a lullaby - you get to play around in falsetto and push and pull volume and voice placement. But it's in great hands with James so I’ll let him have it.

Who was the first person you told that you got Jean Valjean?

James: That was my wife Jemma. She had trouble understanding at first because of the way I was jumping around.

Who was the first person you told that you got Javert?

Greg: It would usually be my wife Heidi, but, she told me! (Heidi is Les Misérables’ production manager).

Press Release

Friday 8th November 2019


Musical Theatre Dunedin has announced its cast for the MTF Finance Dunedin season of Les Misérables and it is packed with the very best musical theatre practitioners in the city.

Last seen in the title role of Phantom of the Opera for Musical Theatre Dunedin, James Adams will lead the cast in the role of Jean Valjean, a French peasant, seeking redemption after serving nineteen years in jail for having stolen a loaf of bread for his sister's starving child.

Greg MacLeod will play opposite Adams in the role of Javert, an inspector who respects the law above all else and relentlessly pursues Jean Valjean, hoping to bring the escaped convict to justice.

Alongside the two musical theatre stalwarts are Janine Weatherley (Blood Brothers, Priscilla Queen of the Desert) in the role of Fantine, Anna Langford (WICKED, Priscilla Queen of the Desert) as Éponine, Chris Hinch (WICKED) and Harriet Moir (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Mamma Mia!) as the second rate thief and unscrupulous wife. Ben Thomas and Lara Davidson will recreate the roles of Marius and Cosette respectively with well-known opera singer Scott Bezett playing Enjolras, the leader of the student revolutionaries.

Principals will be supported by 24 ensemble members and 10 backing vocalists lead by vocal director Beth Waite. A 16 strong live orchestra will provide musical support lead by Stuart Walker.

Featuring one of the greatest scores of all time, this brand-new production features all the beloved songs including I Dreamed A Dream, On My Own, Stars, Bring Him Home, One Day More, Do You Hear the People Sing and many more.

It has been seen in 44 countries and translated into 22 languages around the globe with the 2015 film adaptation introducing the musical to a new generation of audiences.

Les Misérables will open on 7 May 2020 at the Regent Theatre Dunedin for a strictly limited season.

The full cast list is as below:

Jean Valjean - James Adams
Javert - Greg MacLeod
Fantine - Janine Weatherley
Cosette - Lara Davidson
Marius - Ben Thomas
Éponine - Anna Langford
Enjolras - Scott Bezett
Madame Thénardier - Harriet Moir
Thénardier - Chris Hinch
Gavroche - TBC
Little Cosette - TBC
Little Eponine - TBC

Max Beal
Luke Butson
Tama-Anthony Whigham
Beau-Daniel Loumeau
Luke Robb
Philip McKay
Finn Shaw
Travis Luke
Ben Johnson
Alexander McAdam
Ben Hayward
Oliver Coughlin
Peter Storer
Charlotte McKay
Sophie Whibley
Holly Reid
Bethany Osborne
Ruby Bodkin-Oien
Charlotte Hayward
Anna Thomson
Kristina Saul
Megan Kolppanen
Olivia Leonard
Toni Shanks
Steph O'Brien

Joseph Alexander Corbett
Alex Andreassend
Jayden Segar
Logan Greenbank
Stephen Murphy
Marlise Sparks
Anne Marie Amende
Ariana Gepte
Bethany Cook
Erin Connelly-Whyte