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Review: LES MISERABLES At Providence Performing Arts Center

Review: LES MISERABLES At Providence Performing Arts Center

Do you hear the people sing? Make sure you do so catch Les Mis at PPAC

Thrilling, emotional -and even at times light and funny - Les Misérables, which opened at Rhode Island's Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) Tuesday night, is a feast for the eyes, ears, and heart. This touring production of Cameron Mackintosh's latest vision for Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's beloved musical is only in Providence until November 20, so don't wait - treat yourself to an early holiday present and see it while you can. "Les Mis" is a story that has everything - redemption, romance, danger, and hope-and it's fittingly delivered via a lavish feast for the senses with a large cast and a robust orchestra to match, under the baton of Brian Eads.

Long gone is the iconic revolving set, but Matt Kinley's evocative set and image design in its place is laden with detail and inspired by the paintings of Les Mis's original author, Victor Hugo. It is so well designed that set changes seem magical. Combined with lighting, sound, and projections, the effect is immersive and impressive.

The show's iconic solo numbers, however, were staged so that the focus was on the actor and the result was powerful and unforgettable.

Nick Cartell's Jean Valjean is phenomenal. He brings great range to Valjean, both theatrically and musically, showing us the many facets of the hero from his early rage and savagery to his selfless dedication to Cosette. Cartell's return to his pre-pandemic role is reason enough to see the show.

Hayden Tee as Javert is the reason to see it twice. Tee has perfected the role, having played the single-minded police inspector around the world - including Broadway and London's West End. While there were so many highlights of the evening and it's hard to single one out as the best, Tee's performance of Stars was certainly a standout moment. Set on a Paris bridge in Act I, it was particularly moving and beautiful, and a perfect counterpoint to his poignant and powerful bridge scene in Act II.

Another of these high points was of course, I Dreamed a Dream performed by Haley Dortch as Fantine.

Based on Hugo's 1862 novel of the same name, Les Mis, is rich with heavy themes, but they are balanced by the comic - provided by the innkeeper and his wife who were portrayed by Matt Crowle and Christina Rose Hall - and the sweet-provided by the romance between Addie Morales's Cosette and Marius, played Tuesday night by understudy Christopher James Tamayo. They are a delight to watch together.

The epic story covers decades in the characters' lives, and we first meet some as children. Hazel Vogel was outstanding as Little Cosette, whose solo "Castle in the Clouds," was charming and flawless. Gabriel Lafazan's Gavroche was energetic and fearless. Cora Jane Messer showed us Young Éponine as spoiled and elegant, before she becomes the hardened street youth brilliantly played by Christine Heesun Hwang, whose rendition of On My Own was flawless.

Make plans to see Les Mis. Bring tissues. For more information, go to PPACRI.org.



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From This Author - Barb Burke

Barb Burke, a writer and a life-long New Englander, loves the arts in all its forms. 

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