1. Les Miserables

Points – 226

Votes – 33

Firsts – 8

Here it is – DAODS’ Top Musical of all time, and it actually wasn’t even close, with nearly half of members having it in their lists, and well over two hundred points, it took the lead after about three votes and never left the top spot.  And it is easy to see why.

Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables tells the almost lifelong story of Jean Valjean – a man convicted for stealing a loaf of bread who upon breaking his parole is pursued by the dogged Javert – determined to bring him to justice.  Along the way many improbable things happen to him – he is made mayor, adopts a prostitute’s daughter, becomes embroiled in a revolution – just normal everyday stuff.

The reviews upon its release were mixed – if by mixed you mean scathing.  The Telegraph called it “a lurid Victorian melodrama”, Lyn Gardener called it “sentimental old tosh” and The Observer said it was “a witless and synthetic entertainment”. Thankfully these reviews misjudged the British public’s appetite for witless entertainment and Les Mis went on to a three decade run in the West End.  It later went on to become a huge hit of a film, starring several DAODS members in little cameo roles, but unfortunately not in the part of Javert that was ruined by Russel Crowe – shan’t be calling him along to new members.

Some huge names have appeared in the show over the years including Michael Ball, Lea Salonga, Matt Lucas, Dustin off Stranger Things, Gareth Gates (well done Gareth, you stuck with it until the very end), one of S Club 7, and one of the Jonas Brothers.  My personal favourite celebrity tie in however is that Caroline Quentin was in the original cast long before Men Behaving Badly and Jonathan Creek.

The thing that kept coming back time and time again about this show in people’s responses though is the music.  So many songs that really stand the test of time.  “I Dreamed A Dream” made an international superstar out of Susan Boyle, and almost single-handedly won Anne Hathaway an Oscar.  “Do You Hear The People Sing?” has become a revolutionary anthem, being sung in the recent Hong Kong protests.  “One Day More” has inspired a million tributes and parodies, including Simpsons, South Park, James Corden and a cast of celebrities including Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jane Krakowski, and a million families currently in lockdown.  More than individual songs however, the members of DAODS told me how the music lifts them, makes them feel something, and reminds them how grand musical theatre can be.

Some little facts – the current production includes 392 different costumes, which is marginally fewer than your average DAODS main show.  There is a tradition where the actress playing Fantine returns in the chorus for act two wearing men’s clothes that came about because Patti LaPone couldn’t be bothered to get dressed up properly just to be in the chorus.  One of the key components of the Revolution depicted in the show – which incidentally is not the famous French Revolution that we all know about, but a different, far smaller one – was Lafayette, America’s favourite fighting Frenchman, who called for calm, but was just as cross with the King as everyone else.

Les Miserables is the archetypal piece of grand musical theatre, and as a result seems a suitable show to top our list.  Whilst I am sure that none of us wish its West End run to end, I am positive that we all as performers are hoping that one day we will be able to bring it to all of our friends and supporters here in Dartford, and present to them DAODS Favourite Musical of All Time.

Alex’s Song Choice – “Do You Hear The People Sing?“ A rousing song with a self fulfilling question in the title that just lifts and lifts. Won’t be long and I am sure we will all be singing together again!

Lockdown Pick – Many possibilities, but “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” seems suitably on the nose.