BWW Review: All These Years Later, LES MISERABLES - Now Playing at the Peace Center - Continues to Impress
Maybe you saw Les Miserables on Broadway or in London, or on one of its many tours, or even in a smaller, local production. Conversely, maybe you're one of those who've just never gone out of their way to see it. Maybe you've even actively avoided it. The show's been running continuously somewhere in the world since the mid-eighties. Is there really any reason to go see it now?
Yes. Absolutely yes. This new touring production of the 2014 Broadway revival - currently playing at the Peace Center in Greenville, SC - is a stunning, cinematic reinvention of the classic, filled with gorgeous visuals and breathtaking vocals.
The story, of course, follows former prisoner Jean Valjean, who tries to live a virtuous life even as the dogged policeman, Javert, pursues him. Along the way, he helps a young woman named Fantine, raises her daughter, Cosette, and gets caught up with revolutionaries barricading the streets of Paris.
Nick Cartell stars as Valjean. Cartell excels at showing us both the physical and emotional tolls of Valjean's journey, from ragged and beaten prisoner #24601 to successful business owner to reluctant revolutionary. His voice is powerful and strong, particularly in his signature numbers, "Who Am I?" and "Bring Him Home."
Also strong is Josh Davis as Javert. Davis brings an imposing presence and pleasing baritone to the role. His rendition of "Stars" earned extended and well-deserved applause.
Other standout performances - in a huge cast full of brilliant talent - include Melissa Mitchell, heartbreaking as Fantine; Matt Shingledecker as the enthusiastic student Enjolras; J. Anthony Crane and Allison Guinn, hilarious as the Thenardiers; Joshua Grosso and Jillian Butler as lovers Marius and Cosette; and Phoenix Best as Eponine, whose spinetingling rendition of "On My Own" literally took my breath away.
Directors Laurence Connor and James Powell bring a fresh and vibrant perspective to the show, particularly with Matt Kinley's beautiful set and image designs. Using projections inspired by Victor Hugo's paintings, the backgrounds give the production an added depth and scope as well as a sense of movement that helps propel the action forward. Also impressive are Paule Constable's lights, Andreane Neofitou and Christine Rowland's costumes, and the new orchestrations by Christopher Jahnke, Stephen Metcalfe and Stephen Brooker, brought to life under musical director Brian Eads. The orchestra and vocals combine perfectly, filling the Peace Center space with sound.
If you've not seen it before - as I had not - you stand to be mightily impressed. If you have seen it, I think you'll feel the same way. There's something to this show that makes it continue to resonate. And the chills you'll feel when the entire cast sings the rousing "One Day More" are just one small reason why.
Les Miserables runs through Sunday, November 5 at the Peace Center in downtown Greenville, SC. For tickets and show times call the box office at 864-467-3000 or visit peacecenter.org.