Les Miserables is the West End’s longest running musical, and with good reason. It’s a powerful show full of courage and redemption, its themes still resonating with people today. Twenty six years on and it’s as strong a show as it has ever been, and that is as much to do with the cast as it is the writers. Even the best show is nothing without a talented group of individuals to bring those special aspects to life and give them meaning – if you’ve seen the videos of that amateur school production of Les Mis on YouTube then you’ll understand just what I mean.
In June 2012, a new chapter of Les Miserables begins as a fresh batch of West End stars arrive at the Queen’s Theatre to continue the journey of ‘the miserable ones’. Exciting as that may be, it also carries with it a tinge of sadness: the saying goes that as one door opens, another closes, and for the next generation of Les Mis stars take their place on that stage, the current stars have to say farewell. I’ve seen the current cast in the show and was blown away by the depth and range of their collective performance. The principal actors are outstanding, that goes without saying, but the ensemble are just as amazing in their own right. I’ve previously featured several Les Mis ensemble members in the ‘In Profile’ series (Lily Frazer, Fra Fee, Scott Garnham) and this week, it’s the turn of the wonderful Helen Owen.
Hailing from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, Helen Owen is a graduate of the Guildford School of Acting (GSA), which has given us such talents as Caroline Sheen, Michael Jibson, Daniel Boys and Michael Ball, who was of course the original Marius in Les Miserables. Owen has been with the company of Les Miserables for a few years now and currently understudies the lead role of Eponine, which she in fact had the opportunity to play just this last week and, by all accounts, was simply spectacular. She has also previously covered the roles of Fantine and Cosette. A strong dancer with an even stronger voice, Owen is a great addition to the Les Mis cast and has helped to reinforce their ‘rep’ around town as a tour de force in the West End musical theatre scene.
Owen has a wide range of experience in musical theatre though. Before her time in Les Mis, she was involved in a number of other productions in both London and other parts of the UK. Her first post-graduate role came in the form of Mamma Mia at the Prince of Wales and Prince Edward theatres, where she performed with the ensemble and also understudied the role of Lisa, who is one of Sophie’s best friends/bridesmaids. She has played Dorothy in the RSC productions of The Wizard of Oz, first at the Birmingham Rep and then the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Other theatre credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Moth, U/S First Fairy), The Taming of the Shrew (Servant, U/S Bianca) and The Boyfriend (Nancy), all at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. She also played the title role in Cinderella at the Gracie Fields Theatre in her home town of Rochdale.
Lady Luck is clearly smiling down on Helen Owen right now. She has succeeded where, sadly, many others fail and is a fully-fledged West End performer, as well as having fulfilled a long-time ambition by performing in the West End production of Les Miserables. She also happens to be engaged to fellow West End up-and-coming talent Thomas Aldridge, who has performed in such shows as High Society, Dirty Dancing and Peter Pan, as well as originating the role of Bruce Bogtrotter in the development of the RSC’s smash hit musical Matilda.
A gifted performer who oozes star quality, let’s hope Lady Luck continues to shine on Helen Owen.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Saturday 31st March 2012