BWW Review: Providence Performing Arts Center Presents LES MISERABLES

BWW Review: Providence Performing Arts Center Presents LES MISERABLES

If you hurry over the Providence Performing Arts Center, you might still be able to catch one of the last performances of LES MIS. This show is a force of nature and hardly needs me to tell you how great it is, which is a good thing since it closes tomorrow night. Not my call, it's how the Production Company wanted it.

LES MISERABLES (LES MIS) is a musical based on the Victor Hugo's novel by the same name. Premiering in Paris in 1980, it has music by Claude-Michel Schonberg and original French-language lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, alongside an English-language libretto with accompanying English-language lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. The London production has run continuously since October 1985, making it the longest-running musical in the West End and the second longest-running musical in the world after the original Off-Broadway run of The Fantastics. The Broadway production opened 12 March 1987 and ran until 18 May 2003, closing after 6,680 performances. The show was nominated for 12 Tony Awards and won eight, including Best Musical and Best Original score. I don't know how they survived without my review.

Set in early 19th Century France, it is the story of a French peasant, Jean Valjean and his quest for redemption after serving nineteen years in jail for having stolen a loaf of bread for his sister's starving child. Valjean decides to break his parole and start his life anew after a kindly bishop inspires him by a tremendous act of kindness and mercy, but he is relentlessly tracked down by a police inspector named Javert . Along the way, Valjean, his foster child Cosette, and a slew of characters are entangled in a revolutionary period in France, where a group of young idealists make their last stand at a street barricade.

So the show has a decent pedigree, how's this version? It is my happy duty to report that this touring production knocks it out of the park. Jean Valjean is the center of this piece, and Nick Cartell has the pipes for the job. He is good throught, but his "Bring Him Home,' well, brings it home. Phoenix Best as Eponine, the woman Marius somehow eschews for Cosette, earns her bring down the house moment with a lovely and powerful "On My Own." When Melissa Mitchell as Fantine "Dreamed a Dream," she got everyone's attention. And if you're a fan of ensemble singing, "At the end of the Day," "The People's Song," and "One Day More" will do you heart good.

LES MIS drips with idealism, with the idea that the truth will win out, with beautiful music beautifully performed. It runs at the PPAC, 220 Weybosset St. Providence until September 30. The box office can be reached at (401) 421-2787 or online at www.ppacri.org. Better hurry.


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