SEEING Les Miserables - like Willy Russell's Blood Brothers - is like catching up with an old friend.

It is always a satisfying, emotional journey.

With each and every production you know you are going to come away having experienced theatre at its best.

It is clear from the outset when the powerful prologue set in a ship sets the scene.

Wirral Globe:

Production image from 'Les Miserables'

The audience are left in no doubt that they are in for a visual sing-through musical treat where Hollywod meets the West End and Broadway.

I have, since 1985, seen many productions of the show affectionally called Les Mis or Les Miz and this current version is certainly up there with the most memorable interpretations.

Victor Hugo's 19th century novel, written in 1862, is a love story with a backdrop of social and political unrest.

There is a passion for a changing country and for common justice, too closer to home. And there is also romance of the unrequited, the paternal and the maternal and of the everlasting kinds. It is also about spriritual growth and ultimate redemption.

Wirral Globe:

Production image from 'Les Miserables'

Producer Cameron Mackintosh and his team also ensure that we are entertained throughout the three hours - including an interval (to help catch our collective breaths).

The sombre structure brilliantly utilising Hugo's art also has comedic sub-plot elements which are integral to take the presure off the intense storyline featuring such high-energy, physical drama.

Performances are faultless from the moment the characters appear: Jean Valjean (Dean Chisnall) the prisoner trying to rebuild his life after 19 years and the obsessed police chief Javert (Nic Greenshields).

The grotesque landlord Thenardier (Ian Hughes) and his equally horrible but funny wife Madame (Helen Walsh) provide plenty of sight gags with Vaudeivillian verve and panto-esque nastiness raising many a laugh in the process.

The orchestra (under Ben Ferguson) and the spectacular costumes, set design and special effects tick all the right boxes. The standing ovations each night prove that.

Wirral Globe:

Production image from 'Les Miserables'

One particular highlight is an awesome barricades sequence where the revolutionaries fight it out on the streets of Paris. Sound and lighting merge to create a stunning piece of theatre that will long remain in your memory.

On the way out into the winter weather some of the wide-aged group audience were sniffling tears others were warmly humming the musical's greatest hits such as I Dreamed a Dream and Bring Him Home. That, in itself, sums up this classic drama's perennial appeal.

Wirral Globe:

Production image from 'Les Miserables'

Les Mis is back ... bigger and better than ever. Try and see this old friend at the Empire for the next few weeks.

Globe verdict: Glorious - on a grand scale 5 Stars

The show is at the Empire until January 22

Tickets from the box office on 08448717615