Review: LES MISERABLES at Place Des Arts

By: Feb. 09, 2018

Review: LES MISERABLES at Place Des Arts The touring production of Les Misérables has officially opened in Montreal at Place Des Arts, coming from its highly praised, two-and-a-half year run on Broadway. The show opened February 7th, at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier to eager spectators ready and willing to immerse themselves in early nineteenth century France, iconic songs, invigorating ensemble numbers and stunning sets. Expectations were high and excitement was palpable.

The musical, based on Victor Hugo's classic novel of the same name, has remained one of the longest-running musicals of all time. It is the 5th longest-running musical on Broadway earing a series of accolades, including 8 Tony Awards and 5 Drama Desk Awards. Since opening in London in 1985, Les Miz has been viewed by millions of people in 45 countries and 350 cities. The show has been translated into 22 languages, further propelling its global success, and in 2012 a film version, starring Hugh Jackman, reintroduced this compelling story to dedicated fans as well as novices all over the world. The film was a smashing success, resulting in Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Make-up and Best Sound Mixing.

The story of Les Misérables begins in 1815 with Jean Valjean, a French peasant, who is released from prison on parole. His crime? Stealing a loaf of bread for his family. His time? 19 years of hard labour on the chain gang. After his release, an act of mercy by a hospitable bishop inspires Valjean to strive for a new life, leading him to break his parole and engage on a life-changing journey. Javert, the authoritarian police inspector, never far behind, makes it his life's mission to find and recapture the former prisoner. Valjean manages to adopt new identities, gain financial independence and lead a somewhat honest life. After one of his former factory workers, Fantine, tragically dies, Valjean vows to find her daughter, Cosette, and care for her until the end of his days.

Review: LES MISERABLES at Place Des Arts Javert's relentless chase of Valjean spans a 20-year period, introducing a variety of characters along the way and highlighting tumultuous times in France. In 1832, after the death of former Commander and Parliament member Jean-Maximilien Lamarque, civil unrest ensues in the streets of Paris. Lamarque was a strong advocate for human rights and perceived favourably by the French people, particularly the poor. His death sparks an anti-monarchist uprising that results in rebels barricading the narrow streets of Paris, fighting the French army and National Guard. Student resistance leader Enjolas and his friend Marius are at the center of the fight, along with the strong-willed Éponine and feisty Gavroche. All are dedicated and determined to fight for their beliefs, even if the result is death. Les Miz portrays the complex and difficult times of early nineteenth century France as well as universal themes of dogged perseverance, grit, loss, redemption and most of all love.

Cameron Mackintosh's production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's Les Miz maintains some of the changes implemented since the 25th Anniversary production. Most notable are the scenic projections based on Victor Hugo's paintings, designed in this production, along with the set, by Matt Kinley. In the original, as many hard-core Les Miz fans will never fail to recall, there was a revolving stage that supported the movement between settings and scenes, the passing of time and the conflicts at the barricades. Despite this loss, Kinley's designs still offer effective transitions, romantic notions and haunting moments. However, regardless of the appeal, it still doesn't quite replace the wow factor offered by the revolving stage. Perhaps a merging of approaches, the ultimate Mega Miz if you will, could include a combination of projections and a rotating stage. One can dream.

Review: LES MISERABLES at Place Des Arts The set impresses consistently with its dingy streets and Parisian high-rises contrasted by the lovely and romantic house front and gate of Valjean and Cosette's home. Kinley explored intriguing vertical heights that keep the transitions between scenes engaging and dynamic, offering visual treats on all planes of the stage. Paule Constable's lighting compliments both the projections and set beautifully, creating an overall cinematic atmosphere that closely resembles the movie-musical version. The music, with original orchestrations by John Cameron and new orchestrations by Christopher Jahnke are, as expected, absolutely captivating.

Directors Laurence Connor & James Powell lead an incredibly talented cast and run a tight ship with a crisp running time of 2 hours and 55 minutes. The transitions between scenes were swifter than in the original, smoothly taking audiences from one scene to the next and keeping the storyline flowing quickly. However, this approach sometimes left little room for reflection and rushed the plot. The cast however makes it work with passionate ensemble numbers and incredible solos.

Review: LES MISERABLES at Place Des Arts

Among the many star performances, Allison Guinn charms and delights as the hilarious Madame Thénardier. Josh Davis impresses as the righteous Javert, offering an exceptionally rousing rendition of "Stars". Nick Cartell is outstanding as Jean Valjean and elicits an outcry of support from audience members after his deeply moving rendition of "Bring Him Home". This production was met with a well-deserved, enthusiastic standing ovation.

Les Misérables runs at Place Des Arts, 260 boulevard De Maisonneuve Montréal, Québec H2X 1Y9 from February 7th to February 11th.

Tickets can be purchased at:

Creative Team

Producer: Cameron Mackintosh

Book & Original French Text: Alain Boublil

Original French Text: Jean-Marc Natel

Book & Music: Claude-Michel Schönberg

Lyrics: Herbert Kretzmer

Original Orchestrations: John Cameron

New Orchestrations: Christopher Jahnke

Additional Orchestrations: Stephen Metcalfe & Stephen Brooker

Additional Material: James Fenton

Original Adaptation: Trevor Nunn & John Caird

Directors: Laurence Connor & James Powell

Set & Image Designer: Matt Kinley

Costume Designer: Andreane Neofitou & Christine Rowland

Lighting Designer: Paule Constable

Sound Designer: Mick Potter

Musical Staging: Michael Ashcroft

Projection: Fifty-Nine Productions

Photo 1: The company of LES MIZ performs "One Day More". Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Photo 2: Josh Davis as "Inspector Javert"and Nick Cartell as "Jean Valjean" in the national tour of LES MIZ. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Photo 3: The company of Les Miz performs "Master of the House" with J Anthony Crane as "Thénardier" and Allison Guinn as "Madame Thénardier". Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Photo 4: Allison Guinn as "Madame Thénardier" in the national tour of LES MIZ. Photo by Matthew Murphy.


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