YOU could go on for ever extolling the virtues of this magnificent production which makes a triumphant return to Manchester but put simply the best just got better!

If this spectacular show based on Victor Hugo's novel doesn't move you then I'm sorry, you haven't got a soul.

A long and loud standing ovation at the final curtain was marked with many in the audience wiping a tear from the corner of their eye as a truly brilliant cast seemed almost stunned at the reception they were deservedly getting.

For a show to last more than 35 years and still be so fresh, so captivating and basically so good is some achievement. There isn't a hint of Les Mis becoming a museum piece; it remains at the vanguard of what is possible in theatre and shows no signs of resting on its laurels.

Epic is a much over-used word but this production is definitely that. There were towering sets recreating the Paris slums around the Revolution; impressive use of technology took us deep into the sewers below the city and the lighting - so often the forgotten art in theatre - was one of the stars of the show, at times creating scenes which appeared as though a Bruegel painting had been brought to life.

At the heart of the show is an epic (that word again) performance by Dean Chisnall as Jean Valjean, arguably the ultimate challenge in musical theatre. Jailed for 19 years for stealing a loaf, Valjean emerges from the chain gang emotionally-scarred and deeply cynical about the world.

'I never want to leave Les Miserables' says star Dean Chisnall

As he gradually transforms into a force for good the past threatens to bring him down and as Revolution looms can good overcome evil?

Playing Valjean must be the equivalent of running a marathon every night. So many key scenes depend on him. Dean Chisnall - who is approaching 600 appearances in the show - brings a freshness and such emotion to the part. The song Bring Him Home is faultless and you totally believe in the character in search of redemption.

Nic Greenshields as Javert, who becomes obsessed with bringing Valjean down to earth is a powerful, commanding presence and yet he reveals his character's inner flaws with great sensitivity, so much so that you do feel sorry for him.

Katie Hall's Fantine, Nathania Ong and Eponine and Paige Blankson as Cosette provide some of the vocal highlights of the show.

And special mention too for Ian Hughes whose interpretation of the crooked Thernardier verges on the comic genius providing moments of genuine hilarity.

If you have never seen Les Miserable then you need to - at least once. And if you can get a ticket, go and see this version of it.

We have all been deprived of theatre for a long time thanks to the pandemic. This production is a joyous, moving, emotionally-charged and spectacular reminder of the power of the stage.

Les Miserables is at The Lowry until April 23. Details from