BWW Review: LES MISERABLES at Music Hall At Fair Park
Nearly two hundred years ago, a small, two-day revolution in Paris (The June Rebellion of 1832) brought together crowds of students and working-class French citizens who could no longer stay silent and were prepared to fight to the deaths over working wages and conditions. And, whether you're familiar with this story or not, there's never been a better time to 'hear the people sing' than in the exuberant revival tour of the Broadway staple, Les Miserables, now on stage at The Music Hall at Fair Park.The musical, based on Victor Hugo's epic novel, brings center stage Jean Valjean (Nick Cartell), a prisoner locked up for nearly 20 years after stealing a single loaf of bread. Once free, instead of open opportunities, he is faced with closed doors and closed minds, finding few people willing to welcome a man of his past. Then, like an angel of mercy, a local Bishop (Andrew Maughan) encourages him to lead an honest, godly life, giving him a chance at redemption.
Valjean eventually becomes the respected mayor of a French town and owner of a local factory. There, he witnesses a dispute between Fantine (Mary Kate Moore) and the other women workers, who mock her for having an illegitimate daughter whom she's entrusted to an innkeeper and his wife, the Thenardiers (J Anthony Crane and Allison Guinn). As a result of the fight, Fantine loses her job and is forced to sell her hair and her body in order to provide necessary funds to support her child. After another dispute, here with a harassing john, Fantine is arrested, this time saved by Valjean, the same employer who sent her into this downward spiral. As Fantine falls gravely ill, Valjean dedicates his life to raising her young daughter.
Despite his successful life, Valjean has been on the run from Javert (Josh Davis), the policeman who monitors his parole. The decades-long pursuit forces Valjean to take to hiding with his new daughter Cosette (Jillian Butler), who secretly falls for French student and revolutionary Marius (Robert Ariza) just as the famous battle begins. But, Marius is also loved by street urchin Eponine (Emily Bautista) who, coincidently, is the daughter and one-time foster-sibling of his new love, Cosette. Full of love and desperation, the characters come together for a brave and tragic finale.
With constant stage time and a half-dozen soaring, iconic ballads, Jean Valjean is arguably one of musical theatre's most challenging men's roles, and it could not be in better hands than those of Nick Cartell. Although offstage Cartell is decades younger than the leading men who have famously donned the 24601 prison badge, Cartell portrays every angle of Valjean's deep character arch with conviction. Every moment he opens his mouth to sing, his golden tenor elevates the acclaimed score to the highest heights.
Similarly, Mary Kate Moore brings a boost of fresh energy the down-on-her-luck-but-determined Fantine. Her take on "I Dreamed a Dream" strays from Anne Hathaway's Academy Award-winning subdued and dramatic approach, offering instead a strong-willed woman who is simply the victim of circumstance.
Speaking of the 2012 musical film, I'm happy to report that, although Josh Davis' Javert fails to match the magnificence of Mr. Cartell's performance, his vocals are warmly welcomed over his movie counterpart, Russell Crowe. Turning in additional noteworthy performances are Jillian Butler as Cosette, Robert Ariza (Marius), and the hilarious duo of J Anthony Crane and Allison Guinn as Thenardier and Madame Thenardier.
Laurence Connor, who co-directs the tour with James Powell, served as dance captain for a Les Miserables tour back in the 90's, but this production (which he and Powell created for the 25th anniversary tour in 2010 and Broadway revival in 2014) is reimagined with scene-enhancing projections in place of the iconic turntable, which is, surprisingly, not often missed. Rebranding a classic is undoubtedly a daunting task, but Connor and Powell's guidance on the show keeps the pace up without overlooking one moment of dialogue; it is no surprise their version of the show has been selling out theatres across the US for nearly a decade.
So, folk, the time is now and the day is here to catch this majestic piece of theatre history, but only if you run over to the Dallas Summer Musicals box office before Les Miserables departs on May 6th. Tickets and more information can be found at www.dallassummermusicals.org/
Up next at DSM:
THE LION KING (June 13th-July 7th, 2018)
LOVE NEVER DIES (July 24th-August 5th, 2018)
SCHOOL OF ROCK (August 15th-August 25th, 2018)
ELF (November 27th-December 2nd, 2018)
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (December 19th 2018-January 6th, 2019)