Theatre Review: Les Misérables
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of its Broadway premiere, Les Misérables pulls into Richmond this week, for six whole days worth of shows. The world’s longest-running musical, seen by over 65 million people in 42 countries, is showcasing its North American leg of an international tour.
For those less familiar with the stage version and recently released movie, the musical is all-singing, and a defining factor for Les Mis. (In using this controversial abbreviated version, I’m aware those of you on “Team Miz” or “Team Just Spell The Whole Thing Out” may take offense. Please accept my sincere Les Apologies.)
Yep, this isn’t your “burst-out-into song at various moments” type of show, but one in which every bit of dialogue is delivered with a melody.
Based on the Victor Hugo novel, Les Mis features a guy named Jean Valjean, who is imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread (for a child, no less), and then breaks his parole. 17 years later he’s a changed man, but is still being chased by the police, specifically Inspector Javert. (Life lesson: Bread theft is not taken lightly in 19th century France.) Along the way Valjean adopts a little girl named Cosette, dedicates his life to God and ends up fighting in a French Revolution battle.
Les Mis was a driving force behind the operatic pop movement in the 80′s. These shows were entirely performed through song – no dialogue, full of abundant melodies, and hosted a plethora of stage pageantry. Last night’s performance was no exception.
Touring productions tend to be cut down and streamlined for necessity, but the set’s physical grandeur and compelling projections easily made me forget this production wasn’t a permanent fixture.
Andrew Varela takes on the role of Javert with a genuine ferocity and vocal intensity, which serves as a pleasing juxtaposition to Peter Lockyer’s emotional and passionate appetite as Valjean. Genevieve LeClerc, playing Fantine, executed an enchanting version of “I Dreamed a Dream.” Briana Carlson-Goodman stunned as Eponine. It was consistently pristine every time a word or note was emitted from her mouth. Thénardier and Madame Thénardier (played by James Zannelli and Sahwna M. Hamic, respectively) were engaging in both vocals and choreography, and mutually hysterical. An audience favorite, their presence consumed the stage and displayed powerful wit.
Whether it’s your hundredth time in the audience, or your first time hearing ” I Dreamed a Dream”, it’s impossible to overstate the worldwide prominence Les Mis has achieved. If it is your initial introduction to the musical, I suggest doing slight background research on the story. It’s simply impossible to understand everything when it is being sung 100% of the time, and bits of the dramatic tale will be missed.
You can find tickets for the remaining Les Misérables shows at Broadway in Richmond.
A recent NYC transplant, I'm a writer, dancer, foodie, clothing lover, and sriracha supporter. Having lived in RVA for seven years, I completely adore the River City, and still spend as many days as I can rock-laying on the James. A self proclaimed "vintage voyeur," I think the arts scene of any city can reveal so much... not only about our past, but also our modern day, and where we need to go from here.
By all means go see this show…December 10, 2016
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