BWW Review: LES MISERABLES Deserves 24601 Rounds of Applause
There are very few musicals that leave you experiencing a whirlwind of emotions and are supplemented by truly remarkable music. LES MISÉRABLES is the perfect combination of both and is definitely a must-see for all theatre-goers. On July 10th the touring production of LES MISÉRABLES presented by Broadway Across Canada had its first performance in Vancouver at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and will continue until Sunday July 15th. Highlighting the story of Jean Valjean (Prisoner #24601) in 19th century France, we follow him throughout his life after he is released on parole and strives for a better future. With its action, romance, humor, and drama the touring production of LES MISÉRABLES is one that appeals to a wide audience leaving each person completely in awe.
Produced by Cameron Mackintosh and directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell, this touring production of LES MISÉRABLES exceeds expectations with its incredibly realistic and detailed portrayal of the story. The set and image design by Matt Kinley combined with the impeccable lighting by Paule Constable is the prime reason why this production is so exquisite. Each scene serves a multitude of fine details that catch your eye at certain moments of the show making you realize how much time and effort was put into the production. The mood was set perfectly for Fantine during her scenes using alleyways placed at the edges of the set paired with perfectly tailored lighting. In addition, an intriguing aspect of the production included the use of a moving digital media background during a scene involving Valjean and Marius in the sewer systems. Both the actors and the moving digital background were meticulously timed to perfection, which made the digital media very lifelike. Both the "Lovely Ladies" and the "Master of the House" numbers burst at the seams with intricate movement from the cast, making it was clear that the musical staging by Michael Ashcroft and Geoffrey Garratt was not an easy task. There was so much going on in each scene that it was required that your eyes pan the entire stage frequently to notice everything that was happening at certain moments of the show.
A highlight of the entire production was the music by Claude-Michel Schönberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. As LES MISÉRABLES is a world-renowned musical, you can tell that many audience members were quietly mouthing along the lyrics to the classic songs such as "I Dreamed A Dream," "One Day More," and "Do You Hear The People Sing?" The instrumental music at the beginning, ending, and during transitions of the show served as the perfect catalyst for the production to tie it all together. The presence of several recognizable melodies that were prominent at many high points of the musical and the use of certain underlying chord progressions that tied the whole production together brought excitement to the theatre when played by the orchestra as they were known to be distinct characteristics of the beloved soundtrack. There was not one moment where the music interfered with the audience's ability to hear the actors and each musical cue led by musical director Brian Eads, was always spot on. Although, the lyrics are very dense with emotion and information relating to the story, it didn't hinder one's ability to understand the plot of the musical.
There were many remarkable performances by the actors in the production, but it was Nick Cartell who stole the show with his unbelievably compelling performance as Jean Valjean. From when we first met a younger Valjean at the beginning to the end where we see him as an old man, Cartell shows a progression in not only his voice but also in his physical movement to match his aging character highlighting Valjeans maturity transition throughout his life. Cartell's powerful voice definitely became prominent the moment he sang his first words in the show and brought the audience to tears at many moments throughout the musical when he was a soloist. At two moments during the show, there was a prolonged round of applause for him as he truly moved the audience to tears with his passionate solo moments as Valjean.
Other outstanding performances in the show include Emily Bautista as Éponine as well as both J Anthony Crane and Allison Guinn as Thénardier and Madame Thénardier. Bautista's voice was the perfect fit for the production and was highlighted in her solo song "On My Own," a crowd favorite performance. Her portrayal of Éponine was perfect as her facial expressions and body language exemplified her genuine love for Marius played by Joshua Grosso. Both Crane and Guinn as the Thénardiers brought humor to the show as both were the true dynamos of the production. Their frequent antics and extravagant musical numbers had the audience laughing out loud. Crane and Guinn's characters served as pillars of emotional relief from the more intense parts of the show.
The touring production of LES MISÉRABLES is definitely worth seeing as it brings together a magnificent cast, phenomenal music, and an astounding set that will fascinate you every time it transitions to a different scene. This high quality production is spectacular and you do not want to miss your chance to see it in Vancouver!
LES MISÉRABLES is currently playing at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver from July 10th to 15th. Tickets are available at https://www.ticketmaster.ca/ or by calling 1-855-682-6736.
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy