– By Cate Marquis –
LES MISERABLES returns to the Fox Theater with its rousing tale of revolution and democracy from Dec.11 – 16. “Les Miz” is a big Broadway musical in the most classic sense, with enormous sets, stirring songs, unforgettable characters and an inspiring dramatic story. With its tale of redemption and sympathy for the poor, it makes the perfect holiday season companion to A CHRISTMAS CAROL, the Fox’s previous production.
Alain Boublil and Claude Michel Schonberg’s powerhouse musical drama is based on Victor Hugo’s classic tale of redemption, a sweeping dramatic epic story with an escaped convict pursued by a dogged policeman, rich and poor,revolution, romance, selfless kindness and the sewers of Paris. LES MISERABLES is a big bold musical with all the trimmings, and the touring production at the Fox delivers brilliantly.
Revolution, romance and selfless love form the basis of this stirring story, and this splendid production has all the elements to make it a memorable evening for audiences. The acting and singing are superb, the sets, costumes and staging have all the dazzle and grandeur you hope for.
Nick Cartel plays Jean Valjean, the escaped prisoner given a harsh sentence for stealing a loaf of bread but whose life is transformed by an act of kindness. The book by Alain Boublil et all stays close to Victor Hugo’s story of an orphaned girl, an abused abandoned mother, idealistic students and the struggling poor.
Valjean finds a chance to pass on the kindness he received, when the dying Fantine (Mary Kate Moore) begs Valjean to adopt her daughter Cosette. Valjean finds Cosette (Madeleine Guilbot and Vivi Howard, alternating) in the clutches of greedy, crooked innkeeper Thenardier (J. Anthony Crane) and his equally awful wife (Allison Guinn). The Thenardiers treat Cosette like a servant, while pampering their own daughter Eponine (Madeleine Guilbot and Vivi Howard, again alternating), and Valjean has to rescue the poor girl from them.
Despite his good acts, Valjean is still a fugitive and is relentlessly pursued by the morally-rigid policeman Javert (Josh Davis). Javert’s dogged pursuit of Valjean is the main focus on Les Miz but he story spans decades and the sweep of history.When the grown-up Cosette (Jillian Butler) and Eponine (Paige Smallwood) meet again, their circumstances have changed and they cross paths against the backdrop of revolution. Idealistic students Enjolras (Matt Shingledecker) and his friend Marius (Joshua Grosso) are leading an uprising of the poor of Paris,with rebels that include a fiery precocious child, Gavroche (ParkerDzba and Parker Weathersbee). The characters and story lines converge at the barricades, the Broadway show’s enormous signature set that dominates, even fills, the stage.
Rousing, memorable songs, sung by some angelic voices, suffuse this musical. If fact, the whole thing is sung, like an opera. Showstoppers include the dying Fantine’s lament”I Dreamed A Dream” and Valjean’s brave “Who Am I,”as well as the stirring songs of the rebels, “One Day More”and “Do You Hear the People Sing,” led by Enjolras and Marius.
One of the most riveting presences onstage is Josh Davis as the crafty, obsessed Javert will not be turned away from his goal of bringing Jean Valjean to justice, not matter what good deeds the former prisoner does. The scenes with Javert and Valjean are the heart of the musical. Davis’ voice soars in his solos”Stars” and Javert’s finale “Soliloquy.”
Such a dramatic story needs some comic relief, which is provided by the unscrupulous Thenardiers. J. Anthony Crane sings and dances his way with gusto through as Thenardier’s foot-stomping “Master of the House,” with Allison Guinn mugging it up as a funny/scary Madame Thenardier.
LES MISERABLES was an inspiring, emotional and impressive experience throughout, which had the full audience of Fox leaping to their feet by the end. One may not think of this as a show for the holiday season show but it is very much in the spirit of the season of “good will towards men.”
© Cate Marquis