Review: LES MISERABLES at the Princess of Wales Theatre

The globally beloved musical phenomenon returns to Toronto for a limited engagement.

By: Mar. 30, 2024
Review: LES MISERABLES at the Princess of Wales Theatre
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The world's most beloved musical, Les Misérables - directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell based on the Victor Hugo novel, makes a highly anticipated return to the Princess of Wales Theatre for a limited engagement. This new reimagined staging is heralded as a reawakening of the classic for the 21st Century complete with a new touring company.

Set in 19th Century France, Les Misérables is a story of heartache, rebellion, and triumph following the life of Jean Valjean (Nick Cartell) imprisoned for a harmless crime and released after years of hard labor and Inspector Javert (Preston Truman Boyd) who has dedicated his life to track Valjean down. Throughout his tumultuous life, Valjean went from convict to mayor, father to taking up arms next to students in the rebellion. 

And yet Les Misérables is so much more. It represents revolution and the perseverance of the human spirit transcending time and geography through song and soaring voices. To be emotionally moved by witnessing Les Misérables is to be human. This production is monumental by sheer size of the cast, the background, and the set. It is only as strong as the team behind it, and they have truly delivered.

The leading cast includes a few new faces taking on the titular roles and yet they fit into these roles like a glove. Boyd as Inspector Javert is phenomenal - his commanding presence and booming baritone immediately capture's the audience's attention and leaves the crowd stunned. Haley Dortch takes on the much beloved yet short-lived role of Fantine. The emotional pinnacle for her lies in the song "I Dreamed a Dream" and Dortch's voice soars to the rafters and brings the audience along with her. Enjolras has always been a personal favorite character and here he is played by Devin Archer, who embodies the rock star nature of the character seamlessly.

The one noticeable setback would have to be the pacing. Those well versed in the music of Les Misérables would notice that the songs throughout the first act and partially into the second act felt rushed. As the music here is the driving force to convey deep emotions, the quicker pacing removes the connection the character has to their lyrics leaving the songs to come across as performative rather than an emotionally driven part of the story. The performance does manage to find a more comfortable pacing nearing the end but it is due to this fast pacing that it took some time to warm up to Cartell as Valjean despite his prowess as a performer as is evident in his delivery of the final extended note of "Bring Him Home".  

The production elements for Les Misérables are a vital component of completing the theatrical experience. In particular, the set piece of the barricade is iconic to this show. Hats off to set designers David Harris and Christine Peters and projection designers Simon Harding and Jonathon Lyle for bringing this world to life.

Les Misérables is on stage until June 1 and whether this is your first or fifteenth time seeing this production, you won't want to miss it.

Photo credit: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for Murphymade