BWW Reviews: A Triumphant Ovation for LES MISÉRABLES 25th Anniversary Tour
The 25th anniversary tour of Les Misérables brilliantly captures the intense emotion and sublime beauty of its theatrical predecessor.
Les Misérables is the world's longest-running musical for good reason. Its account of redemption and the endurance of the human spirit continues to resonate with audiences across the globe. With a magnificent score, dynamic characters and engaging storytelling, Les Mis still shines brightly on its silver anniversary.
Restaging a musical as beloved as Les Misérables is, at the very least, an ambitious undertaking. Devoted fans of the original production may view any changes in the show with suspicion. Yet though the familiar rotating stage is a memory, Cameron Mackintosh's innovative use of projection screens makes the new settings come alive. A lifelike fall of snow accompanies Valjean and Little Cosette's journey to Paris, the company's rousing march appears to move rapidly through the city streets during "One Day More," dawn breaks gently over the barricades and Valjean's flight through the sewers attains a sense of immediacy and urgent momentum.
In this new production, J. Mark McVey plays Jean Valjean, the persecuted protagonist of Les Misérables. McVey inhabits the role, masterfully conveying both Valjean's anguish and bitterness after 19 years of unjust imprisonment and his complex emotional transition after vowing to God to begin his life anew. McVey has a lovely voice, a pure and powerful tenor, and his flawless rendition of "Bring Him Home" received a most worthy and resounding ovation.
Andrew Varela is the production's outstanding Inspector Javert. Varela portrays Javert's uncompromising devotion to the law and captures the intensity at the core of the character in even his smallest gestures. Varela's magnificent voice is showcased in "Stars" and "Soliloquy," and he compellingly portrays Javert's devastating inability to comprehend Valjean's act of mercy at the barricades.
This touring cast boasts a wealth of talent. Chasten Harmon shines as the lovelorn yet steadfast Éponine. Harmon possesses an incredible instrument and her musical numbers showcase her silken voice beautifully. Sam Poon is an extraordinary young actor and brilliant in the role of Gavroche. Poon easily holds his own on a stage full of adult actors and his Gavroche is endearingly plucky. Max Quinlan's Marius begins with all the naivety and exuberance of a young romantic, then powerfully conveys raw grief and guilt after the loss of his friends and finally settles into a steady maturity by the story's end.
As Enjolras, the leader of the ill-fated student revolution, Jeremy Hays exudes the charisma and confidence of young idealism; his singing voice is rich and commanding. Richard Vida's Thénardier is appropriately animated and smarmy, while Shawna M. Hamic skillfully balances Madame Thénardier's comic menace (Beth Kirkpatrick replaced Hamic as Madame Thénardier in the second act; though less blustery than Hamic, Kirkpatrick demonstrated spot-on comic timing during "Beggars at the Feast").
The 25th Anniversary tour of Les Misérables plays the Providence Performing Arts Center through November 6, 2011. Ticket prices range from $53 to $80 and are available at the PPAC Box Office on 220 Weybosset Street, Providence, RI; by phone (401) 421-ARTS (2787) or online at www.ppacri.org.
Photo by Deen Van Meer.