– By Cate Marquis –
A simply splendid production of “Les Miserables” stormed the Fabulous Fox stage on Tuesday, Jan. , before a packed house, for a too-brief run until Jan. 22. This is the wonderful Cameron Mackintosh production of Boublil and Schönberg’s “Les Misérables,” the musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel that has been such an enduring hit with audiences around the world. On opening night, the cast delivered on the production’s promise, with an unforgettable performance that was filled with glorious voices and music, impressive sets, and moving acting. This is sure to be one of the highlights of the Fox’s 2022-2023 season.
Acclaimed tour cast members Nick Cartell and Preston Truman Boyd return as Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert respectively, the adversaries in the story’s central conflict. Jean Valjean is a convict released on parole who breaks parole to adopt a new identity and becomes successful as an honest man, while Inspector Javert is a rigid policeman obsessed with Valjean who pursues him relentlessly. That story unfold against the backdrop that highlights the desperate plight of the poor and a student uprising on their behalf.
Valjean’s (Nick Cartell) crime was stealing a loaf of bread, not for himself but his sister and her hungry child, which earned him a 19-year sentence. The musical opens on board a ship, where our central character, Jean Valjean is manning the oars along with other convicts, as they sing “Look Down,” one the film’s many memorable songs. Valjean is paroled but policeman Javert (Preston Truman Boyd) warns him that he is required to carry papers indicating he is an ex-con for life. Those papers mean no one will give Valjean a job or even place to stay, The kindly Bishop of Digne (Randy Jeter) offers the desperate and angry Valjean food and a place to stay for the night, and the bishop’s further kindness transforms Valjean’s view of humanity and puts him on better path.
Years later, living under another identity, Valjean has become a successful factory owner and mayor of his town. He rescues a dying young woman, Fantine (Haley Dortch), who was unfairly fired from Valjean’s factory and makes a deathbed promise to her to adopt her young daughter Cosette. Cosette (played by Cora Jane Messer on opening night) is supposed to be in the care of a couple who run an inn, but in fact crooked innkeepers Thenadier (Matt Crowle) and Mme Thenadier (Christina Rose Hall) treat poor Cosette like a slave while spoiling their own young daughter Eponine (Hazel Vogel).
When events force Valjean to reveal his true identity, Javert becomes obsessed with his capture when Valjean again disappears, now with Cosette. Years later, these characters meet again in Paris, as a student uprising over the mistreatment of the poor, led by Enjolras (Devin Archer) leads the students, including his friend Marius (Gregory Lee Rodriguez), is brewing. Gabriel LaFazan plays the rebels’ young street urchin Gavroche on opening night, while Christine Heesun Hwang plays the grown Éponine and and Addie Morales plays grown Cosette
“Les Miz” is entirely sung, like an opera, but the memorable melodies and stirring lyrics are modern and one of the joys of the show, with hits like Fantine’s solo “I Dreamed a Dream.” The memorable tunes repeat throughout, with different lyrics for that new scene. The voices were wonderful, enhanced by a live orchestra.
Nick Cartell’s moving tenor as Valjean and Preston Truman Boyd’s booming baritone as Javert were terrific and dominate the show. But there were surprising powerhouse solos as well, particularly by Haley Dortch as Fantine, singing the favorite “I Dreamed a Dream,” and a fiery solo by Christine Heesun Hwang as the grown Éponine, singing “On My Own.”
The staging, as always was wonderful, with the addition of some screens that added additional depth and drama to the physical sets and flats in the foreground. Highlights of the staging, and crowd favorites, the towering barricades the would-be revolutionaries scale, and the bridge where Javert has his crisis.
Overall, this stellar production delivered all the power, emotion and theatrical delights that audiences would desire.
“Les Miserables” is on stage at the Fabulous Fox through Jan. 22.
© Cate Marquis