It is the same compelling same story, the same glorious music but as Cameron Mackintosh shares, "25 years after Les Miserables ("Les Miz") originally opened in London the audience for this marvelous show is bigger and younger than ever before. It has been exciting to draw inspiration from the brilliant drawings and paintings of Victor Hugo himself, integrated with spectacular projections. The new Les Miz is a magnificent mix of dazzling images and epic staging, driving one of the greatest musical stories ever told."
Impressive projections take you on a journey from the backstreets of France, the cavernous sewers, the dark woods, the starry skies and murky waters of Javert's suicide. This set design would have been impossible 25 years ago - projection and integrated lighting design. Javert's suicide from the Pont on the Seine is pure theater magic.
Based on Victor Hugo's classic novel, this is an epic and uplifting story about the survival of the human spirit. The magnificent score features classic songs such as "I Dreamed a Dream," "On My Own," "Stars," "Bring Him Home," "Do You Hear the People Sing?," "One Day More," "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables," "Master Of The House."
Most of the cast is indeed worth singing about. Peter Lockyer plays a very vigorous, passionate Jean Valjean. It is evident that Lockyer's stage experience lends itself to a stellar performance. Valjean's antagonist Inspector Javert has typically been played as a staunch militant, emotionless man of the law, Andrew Valera has taken this character type into a new dimension of inner rage that occasionally breaks through gloriously in Javert's frustration at his inability to capture the ex-con who not only escapes him for years but destroys Javert's soul with his goodness and mercy. Varela's portrayal of Javert is purposeful and calculated. His formidable police inspector depiction is backed up with commanding vocals that reach their climax in "Stars" and in "Soliloquy", where his last moments on the bridge are phenomenally executed courtesy of the design and tech teams.
Genevieve Leclerc plays Fantine a bit too mechanically and rushed, while getting through each scene without any noticeable flaws, she simply does not draw the emotion from the character as well as one would hope. Not the case with Briana Carlson-Goodman's Eponine, who delights with her portrayal of the tough, spunky, vulnerable Inn keepers' daughter.
Timothy Gulan as Thénardier and Shawna M. Hamic as Madame Thénardier are delightfully despicable and never play for the laughs, though they get them. Jason Forbach possesses an imposing baritone as Enjolras adding to the richness of one of the most glorious vocal companies to ever join their voices on a stage! A standout performance is offered from the student called Feuilly played by Weston Wells Olson, who brings his character to life in every scene!
Devin Ilaw plays Marius with conviction, emotion and a very fitting singing voice.
Lauren Wiley plays the role of Cosette; typically a very subdued, sweet character in the story in comparison to the other female roles yet she is given songs with vocal ranges that only the most trained soprano can effectively deliver. Wiley does a suitable job with acting and vocals.
Clearly this is a younger, fresher take on a show enjoyed worldwide by millions.
Les Miserables will play at the Academy of Music through January 13th. For Tickets and information: www.kimmelcenter.org/broadway
Photos: Courtesy of Kimmel Center Press