BWW Review: Epic and Electrifying: National Tour of LES MISERABLES More Than Delivers at the Altria Theater in Richmond!
Broadway in Richmond at the Altria Theater opens its 2018-2019 season with a phenomenal bang. Boublil and Schonberg's Les Miserables returns to Richmond through October 28. Fans old and new will enjoy this garden-fresh, pitch-perfect duplication of the 2014 Broadway revival directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell. Tickets can be purchased here.
Based on Victor Hugo's sweeping novel of the same namesake, Les Miserables is set in 19th-century France and follows Jean Valjean (Christopher Viljoen), a lowly peon, after serving 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's child. After breaking parole and finding a new life thanks to the mercies of a forgiving bishop, Valjean is inexorably pursued by Javert (Josh Davis), the same police inspector from whose custody he escaped. Along the way, Valjean meets a dying Fantine (Mary Kate Moore) and adopts her daughter, Young Cosette (Madeleine Guilbot). Cosette (Olivia Dei Cicchi) falls in love with a young crusader (Marius), the love interest of Eponine (Paige Smallwood). They are all drawn into the middle of a revolutionary conflict, where a band of young students make a final, bloody stand at a street barricade.
Matt Kinley's larger-than-life set is front and center in this masterful production. Paule Constable's elaborate lighting design is grand and sets the tone for this glorious revival. If turntables helped propel the action in Trevor Nunn's original, breathtaking staging; those mechanisms have been replaced by somewhat effective, modern projections by Fifty-Nine Productions. Andreane Neofitou and Christine Rowland's costumes sweep the audience into early 19th-century France.
Under the musical direction of Brian Eads, the large cast comes together as a cohesive ensemble for remarkable executions of Claude-Michel Schonberg's sweeping score. Thanks to tight and rich vocals throughout the talented cast, there are numerous ensemble highlights. Most notably, the chill-inducing "One Day More."
J Anthony Crane and Allison Guinn bring necessary doses of humor to the drama as the crass and obnoxious Thenardier and Madam Thenardier, the latter who pilfers away nearly every moment she's on stage. "Master of the House" is raucous and delicious because of the pair's antics.
Josh Davis' Javert is relentless and menacing with powerful vocals, best showcased in the affecting "Stars" and "Soliloquy." Mary Kate Moore's fragile performance as Fantine cannot be understated. Her "I Dreamed A Dream" is an emotional turning point. Matt Shingledecker is commanding as Enjolras and delivers a stirring "Red and Black."
Joshua Grosso shines as Marius and has beautiful vocals to boot. Paige Smallwood's "On My Own" is heartbreaking and adds rawness to the character of Eponine. Understudy Olivia Dei Cicchi's Cosette is a strong soprano. The trio's rendition of "A Heart Full of Love" perfectly underscores the complexity of their relationships.
On opening night, a somewhat youthful Christopher Viljoen (understudy) was sensational as Jean Valjean, and convincingly and effortlessly transformed from downcast detainee to regal mayor and Cosette's protector. His voice was a highpoint of the production and his "Bring Him Home" received a well-deserved and ceaseless ovation.
While adult innuendo and minor language are lightly sprinkled throughout the production, Les Miserables is transcendent and a vital piece of musical theatre history for everyone. This production is recommended for older children up.