Quote of the Day: All the best performers bring to their role something more, something different than what the author put on paper. That’s what makes theater live. That’s why it persists. Stephen Sondheim
One Day More, On My Own, Bring Him Home, Stars, The People’s Song: Do you hear the people sing, singing the songs of angry men, it is the music of a people who will not be slaves again! When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drum, it is the life about to start when tomorrow comes. Every word of those songs gave me the goosebumps.
Les Misérables is a powerful story, adapted from the novel by Victor Hugo, set to a score and lyrics by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, and brought to life by the more than 100 cast, crew, and musicians on this National Tour. It is a most spectacular evening of theater. It makes you think, laugh, cry, and feel. This particular performance had me thinking about the injustices in the world, past and present, especially of women and people born into poverty. How they’re never free from the oppression. That those in power hold onto it with a whip and a chain. Why does it have to be so? Why do so many people have to suffer and die? Is social reform impossible?
The show premiered in Paris in September 1980, and on Broadway in March of 1987. I saw Les Miz on Broadway in 1993, and I’ve watched the movie, but this performance put me in the perspective of those who stand behind the barricade. We’re the next in line. Will we take up arms? Will we try to negotiate? Or, will we try to flee? My son talked to me about his cynicism about these young men thinking they could fight an army. But, if they don’t take a stand, who will?
The set itself has a stark beauty, inspired by paintings by Victor Hugo. Much of the performance is dark, and yet, it doesn’t feel dim and sleepy because of the lighting. It’s like a painting by Rembrandt where you have the use of light in the darkness. Beams of light shine on the action, spotlights on the soloists, a hint of light and color coming through those barriers both physical and emotional. The Set and Image Designer Matt Kinley must have worked closely with Lighting Designer Paule Constable to create this effect. The use of images and projections give this production an almost cinematic feel, especially during the scene where Javier sings “Soliloquy.” These are some updates from the original production.
The entire ensemble is stunning, and I will highlight the leads. Josh Davis as Javier practically had me weeping during both of his solos “Stars” and “Soliloquy.” His is a tragic character. I think, the most tragic of all because he is so tethered to the law, or what he believes it must be. Paige Smallwood as Éponine was absolutely stunning. She brought out every emotion in her performance, and when she sang “On My Own” (a personal favorite), I had goosebumps everywhere! Jillian Butler has the most beautiful, high, sweet voice you will ever hear as Cosette. Nick Cartell gave practically perfect vocals to Jean Valjean. I wanted his “Bring Him Home” to last longer and the applause to wait until that last lovely note reached the ceiling.
Monté J. Howell and Olivia Dei Cicchi as the Innkeeper and his wife were hilarious, giving their characters so much energy, milking the laughs, and bringing it out strong. Matt Shingledecker had great confidence as the passionate Enjolras who rallies the young men to fight. Joshua Grosso is a sweet Marius, drawing a few laughs when he finally meets Cosette face to face, and wooing her, and us, with his love songs. The children charm the audience, and young Parker Dzuba as Gavroche steals the show with his beautiful, pure voice, and his energetic actions.
The audience applauded heartily during the performance after the big solos, and they were on their feet even before the curtain call. This is a much loved musical with a huge following. Fans will not be disappointed with this performance. They may, like me, find it even more powerful than ones they’ve seen before.
You can see Les Misérables on tour at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, MN through December 30, 2018. It continues its tour into 2019. Please visit the Les Misérables tour website for performances in cities near you.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Have you ever taken a stand against social injustice?
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It’s a powerful play all right. I saw it in London in the mid-eighties.
Alex, You saw it in London?! That must have been amazing.