It’s back. I won’t say “better than ever” simply because I’ve never seen a production of Les Miserbles that I didn’t love, not even the movie.
I will say that the current cast who opened last night at the Altria Theater did an exceptional job in mesmerizing me for about 2.5 hour. I can’t speak for anyone else in the audience. I was too mesmerized.
If I were a playwright, I’m thinking Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables would probably be the last novel I’d ever consider turning into a stage production. However, thanks to the genius of Cameron Mackintosh, the story of fugitive Jean Valjean and post-French Revolution protesters (the events actually takes place about 40 years after the French Revolution) has been transformed into the perfect play. The finale of Les Miserables works on every level. There is no way that one can not be standing on his or her feet cheering the performance and the performers by the time the curtain drops.
I’m no more an expert critic than I am a playwright, so I can’t dazzle you with my astute assessment of why this play, in general, and this production, in particular, works so well. I just know that this current production features a compilation of some beautiful voices and fine acting… a big bravo to the orchestra as well.
Nick Cartell, as Jean Valjean, was quite impressive, especially when he sang “Bring Him Home.” Cartell has the perfect tenor voice for that song and for the role. And Josh Davis captured Javert to perfection. The Thernardiers are there to provide comic relief. J. Anthony Crane and Allison Guinn were made for those roles. The scenes in which they appeared were overacted in the way their roles were designed. I did find that the current incarnation of the play adds some subtle touches of humor in other places that I don’t’ remember in previous stagings. But it was definitely not overdone and perhaps a little welcome.
At first, I was a little put off by Paige Smallwood as Eponine. Eponine has always been my favorite character and in previous portrayals, she has seemed to float across the stage with much grace and poise. In analyzing Smallwood’s portrayal, I think she may have captured the real Eponine. When she did “On My Own,” her voice was beautiful, but had a certain Jersey-girl quality to it…no offense to Jersey girls. Considering who her parents are and what her upbringing must have been, I think Smallwood has brought a fresh interpretation that makes sense.
Now, that’s about as deep as I get. It’s a great play, with great music and an assemblage of truly beautiful voices (and beautiful people, to boot). If you haven’t seen Les Miz, you really need to take advantage of the opportunity to see it right here at the Altria. It’ll be here through Sunday. If you have seen Les Miz, you don’t need me to tell you what to do. For info and tickets, just click here.