LES MIZ National Tour A Monumental Production

By: Jan. 19, 2011
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LES MIZ National Tour A Monumental Production

(Photo By Deen van Meer)

The 25th Anniversary Tour of the Tony winning Les Miserables opened last night at the Broward Center and I am here to report that it is the best time at Les Miz I have ever had.

I saw Les Miz for the first time at its third Broadway performance decades ago. As the first act ended, I turned to my theater going companion and said ‘Well, it's good.' He replied that he was glad to hear me say that as we both had found, at least the first act, of Les Miz, a tedious bore.

For those unfamiliar with the songs, Les Miserables is to most, a baffling disappointment. Les Miz is certainly a show that you want to familiarize yourself with before attending. There is a lot going on up there and without prior knowledge of ‘what the show is about' and the songs, Les Miz can be, for the unsuspecting theater goer, a confusing, sleep inducing show.

Those of us who have read the Victor Hugo novel upon which Les Miz is based, and have listened to the songs by Schonberg and Kretzmer may be in store for an excellent Broadway musical, containing one or two of the most soaring songs and exciting musical moments a theater lover can hope for.

This production of Les Miz is adorned with simply wonderful set design by Matt Kinley, inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo (Mr. Hugo was a man of many talents.) The costumes by Andreane Neofitou and the lighting by Paule Constable reach the level of excellence of Mr. Kinley's set design, and this is no small feat.

Directing on this marvelous playground are Laurence Connor and James Powell. The original production was directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caird, and frankly, it is difficult to ascertain who did what. I don't remember the original production very well, except to remember that it kept moving, and as a theater going companion remarked, "It kept moving to keep us from falling asleep." Connor and Powell keep this show moving at a fine rapid pace, and yet there are still a few stretches in Les Miz that bring on the yawns and restlessness.

Connor and Powell have done a mostly excellent job with their cast, with perhaps just one or two weak leaks in their performing chain. Virtually every singing voice in this Les Miz is sensational, as it should be. Why would anyone be cast in a singing role in Les Miz unless they were a great singer? We have all great singers and performers on that stage, down to the last member of the gloriously thrilling chorus.

(Lawrence Clayton and Betsy Morgan)

I do believe that Lawrence Clayton was miscast at Jean Valjean. He has a lovely voice, but does not have the guts and the chops to tower over this production as the actor playing Jean Valjean should.

Michael Kostroff as the ‘master of the house' is fine and provides the one audience wide laugh in Act One. His performance is rather trite, but in the end, he acquits himself handsomely. If I am correct, the innkeeper's wife was played last night by an understudy and forgive me for being confused as to the actor's name. Her performance never even equaled that of Mr. Kostroff's. This comic relief duo, did not do much relieving at the opening night performance. They both were fine, but they both should have been much funnier.

Bringing in the goose bump factor was Betsy Morgan as Fantine. Her honest, fragile acting and her soaring voice were well matched with the show's best song, I DREAMED A DREAM. A hearty bravo to Ms. Morgan.

(Andrew Varela)

This production of Les Miz will be remembered by most of us for its production values and for the performance of Andrew Varela as Javert. As the officer of the law who mercilessly hunts Jean Valjean for years and years, Mr. Varela used his commanding stage presence and his masterfully powerful singing voice, to make his performance, one that is unforgettable.

I do encourage you to see this outstanding production of Les Miz at the Broward Center. However, I again caution you that your enjoyment will be greatly enhanced by familiarizing yourself with the show's CD and ideally Victor Hugo's original book.





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