“I HAVE to be honest, it surpassed all my expectations - like watching a West End Show! All the cast are so talented.”

“Blown away with tonight’s performance. Some up and coming West End Stars! Well done to all the cast.”

“Wow what a performance! Thank you so much, I had to keep reminding myself, these are school kids! It was tantamount to a professional theatre show.”

These are just a few of the comments made by the audience of the Shebbear College 2024 Senior School production of Les Misérables, who were totally blown away by the talent of the students who performed on stage.

The cast singing 'One More Day'
The cast singing 'One More Day' ( )

Les Misérables took place from March 13 to 15 with all three nights selling out in just a few weeks and a real buzz around the show. With a cast of 70 children ranging from Year 7 through to Sixth Form and eleven lead roles - not to mention the fact that the whole show is in song - it was an ambitious production to choose.

Head of creative and performing arts at Shebbear College, Rebecca Sadler-Smith, commented: “Wow! We never thought this moment would happen!

“There might perhaps be one opportunity in a Performing Arts teacher’s life where you feel ready to plant the seed of imagination in your team and say the crazy words...’How about doing Les Mis next year?’... and well, here we are!

“The quality of singers here at Shebbear College have gone from strength to strength, and that, together with the phenomenal team spirit that our Performing Arts students hone themselves, it just felt like it was time.

“What the audience saw last week was a cast filled with fantastic children who just love the Performing Arts' she continued, 'and they enjoy performing, on stage, with their friends. We could not wish for anything more than that, and it has made our jobs an absolute pleasure.”

Their skills were nurtured and developed by the performing arts team, including consultant director, actor and Shebbear College parent, Carol Carey, and their performance was highlighted by a wonderful set, created by the school’s maintenance team and beautifully atmospheric lighting and sound by Illuminate Design, supported by sixth former Toby Shephard-Blandy (who also played the protagonist in the show, Jean Valjean) and fully operated by Shebbear College students as the tech team.

The show received standing ovations every evening, with a full standing ovation on the closing night and rapturous applause from the audience. For Sixth Former, Jon-Christopher Wright, an international student from Jamaica who played Javert in the production, this was his first experience of musical theatre, having not realised he could sing until now! Despite playing the antagonist of the story, he completely won the hearts of the audience with his outstanding performance and incredible voice.

Jon-Christopher said: “I’ve never done musical theatre before; this was my first production, ever. It was all Harriet’s (Allin, who played Madame Thénardier) idea – I wasn’t even planning to be in the cast, I wanted to help with the light and sound – but she persuaded me and I’ve really enjoyed it, so I’m really thankful to have had that opportunity. I didn’t sing before this, but apparently, I can!”

Jon-Christopher Wright as Javert
Jon-Christopher Wright as Javert ( )

Performing Arts Scholar, Harriet Allin, whose portrayal of the villainous Madame Thénardier was both hilarious and chilling, added: “The Thénardiers add a touch of comedy to the show. Les Misérables is a sad tale, so it was good to be able to bring a bit of joy and I loved meeting all the younger members of the cast during rehearsals and chatting other people like me, who love a bit of musical theatre!”

Javert’s nemesis, Jean Valjean, is played by fellow scholar, Toby Shephard Blandy, whose stage presence and voice made jaws visibly drop in awe!

Toby added: “It was a big production; it’s closer to operetta than musical theatre really because it’s just singing, which is a difficult thing to put on in a school environment. We’ve had the biggest cast we’ve ever had since I’ve been at Shebbear and by the final performance there was such a rich sound coming from everyone, as well as a diverse range of acting skills which made for a great show!”

Harriet Allin as Madame Thénardier
Harriet Allin as Madame Thénardier ( )