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LES MISERABLES

Directed by John Caird & Trevor Nunn
Starring Randal Keith, Stephen Tewksbury, Jessica-Snow Wilson, and Ashley Jarrett

A thief touched by goodness tries to pass it on to his adopted daughter, while staying ahead of a policeman obsessed with bringing his past to justice.

 

 

4 stars

November 14th, 2002, for the second time

 
   

I truly love an ensemble cast singing bold songs. This show is really an experience, with brilliant acting, epic and humorous songs, and an amazing set design.

The acting was first-rate. Everybody did a terrific job. Valjean's voice was incredible, but I really fell in love with Eponine's singing. I also couldn't believe Javert's voice. Wow. They all played their characters first-rate, even Cosette, who must have been a more difficult character to play, since she doesn't know the motivations behind her "father's" impulses. Little Gavroche also surprised me, as I didn't expect such a mature boy there, though perhaps I should have.

The songs were quite memorable. As I mentioned, the ensembles were the best songs, except for one. Eponine's "On My Own" was beautiful and haunting, and the sad song that I came away singing. I may get the soundtrack simply for that one. However, the comedic "Master of the House" had everyone rolling in laughter, as Eponine's parents swindled all their customers, and her mother criticized her father in not-so-lady-like language! The rest of the songs were, for the most part, really enjoyable. The songs about the revolution were cast with voices of just the right timbre and melody, while the solos were typically very heartfelt.

The sets were amazingly simple in their look, but must have been extremely complicated to use and build! The rotating stage was the best part, since it could be used for a character to stroll along, without actually moving relative to the audience. The overhead walkway was transformed from buildings on the side, and then into the barricade, swiveling even as part of the script was playing out. One of the snippets that I remember from seeing this production when I was barely a teen was Javert's jump off the bridge -I thought it was a wonderful concept that the bridge rose instead of him falling, then lights to represent the swirl of the river as he falls in.

The story is the only thing that needs to be supported here, as without reading the liner notes beforehand, I didn't see any motivation for the revolution. It didn't seem to be connected in any way, except for love at first sight, to the story of Cosette and Valjean. The entire second act focuses on it, however, which makes it important that the audience understands what sparks it, but saying simply that they will take a general's death as a sign is not enough. More buildup would have been nice.

I enjoyed the first act better than the second, as we get to know Valjean and understand his plight, running from the law because he is mistreated, all because he went to prison for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. From the generosity of an aging bishop, he learns compassion, and so becomes mayor of a town, and helps a woman who is fired from his company because he allowed prejudice to develop there. His guilt over that matter finds him adopting young Cosette when the woman is sent to jail -or worse. All we really see from Valjean in the second act comes from him trying to save Cosette's love-at-first-sight, which was a stretched concept, to begin with.

This is not the best production I've ever seen (Phantom of the Opera, perhaps?), but it is still wonderful, with enough charm and steam and grit to satisfy most people, I think. I just love musicals, and this one has great songs, both in the humorous category and in the epic and sad.

 
   

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