Saturday, April 26, 2014

Theater Review: Les Miserables

The revival of Les Miserables, the pop opera currently on the boards at the Imperial, still manages to get the audience to stand and shout its approval at the final curtain.  That in itself is not an accomplishment, of course, since every show on the boards these days manages to do just that.  Still, the production is worth your attention. This musical, which is based on Victor Hugo's novel and takes place in France during the nineteenth century, tells the story of a solemn fugitive, Jean Valjean (Ramin Karimloo), who is pursued by police officer Javert (Will Swenson) for an extraordinarily minor infraction.

It appears that Paris in 1832 was a dangerous place: There was the threat of insurrection and revolutionists were scheming to scale the barricades.  Meanwhile, the unhappily tragic Fantine (Cassie Levy), who was forced into prostitution, dies; her daughter, Cosette (Samantha Hill), is adopted by Valjean after he whisks her away from devilish innkeepers  (Andrew Kober and Christinne Tisdale).  When Cosette is grown, she marries a handsome student, Marius (Andy Mientus).  By now, however, the revolution has begun, and crucial events follow: Javert and Valjean meet squarely; Valjean allows the police officer to go free; and Javert loses his senses and takes his own life.  And now, Valjean is at peace at last.

Claude-Michel Schonberg's lilting score, Herbert Kretzmer's lyrics, Mat Kinley's set design and Paul Constable's lighting are all worthy of commendation.. And the directors (Laurence Connor and James Powell) appear to have put the entire production into splendid shape.  And not for a moment did I miss that ubiquitous circular revolving platform.

But the truth is that this has never been one of my favorite shows.  Still, I must have been enjoying the performance because I never thought about that wonderful parody of the show in Forbidden Broadway: In a spoof of the song "Bring Him Home," a member of the cast sang (as he painfully reached for the high notes):  "Bring it down. It's too high."