Review – 25th Anniversary Les Miserable Stage Production
Red! The color of my delight!
Black! The stage before the lights came on!
Red! The energy of so much excitement!
Black! The color of the clothes I wore!
Deep breath. Let’s break this mother down.
1. The orchestra. Yes, there is a live orchestra for this show. Led by conductor Lawrence Goldberg, working off original orchestrations by John Cameron, new orchestrations by Christopher Jahnke, and additional orchestrations by Stephen Metcalfe and Stephen Brooker, he did an excellent job leading the baker’s dozen plus two orchestra. They were powerful and passionate and it was no easy task keeping up with the incredible talent of all the singers on stage, but boy did they ever. Special shout out to cellist Ira Glansbeek, who played with wonderful sensitivity and tone that was clearly evident during many of Jean Valjean’s solos.
2. Set design and staging. Wow, the press releases weren’t kidding when they said they’d change up the staging for this special 25th Anniversary production. Stage to ceiling projections by Fifty-Nine Productions, lighting by Paule Constable with set design by Matt Kinley (inspired by Victor Hugo’s own paintings) all blended and added together to create something visually stunning and emotionally satisfying. The many set pieces were like wonderful, additional characters that moved seamlessly on and off the stage without ever pulling focus but always adding to the oh-so-important world-building of 1823 Europe.
3. The singing. For those who don’t know, Les Miserable is entirely sung. Entirely. And for those who never saw the stage production and only saw the current Les Mis movie starring Huge…excuse me, Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway, let me assure you, much like Dan Savage assured so many others….it gets better. Yes, Hugh and Anne did great jobs and Russell…well, he tried. But the singing in this Broadway Across America production, done by polished, professional Broadway-caliber singers, was phenomenal. Forget the movie. This is how you’ve got to see this show. You’ve got to see Les Mis like this, in a theater with incredible acoustics with singers singing their hearts out with an orchestra to back them up and wrap them all together. See it like this, where you can feel the music vibrate your hair and hammer in your chest. See it like this, where after every number, the audience roars with such emotion and praise, it’s like a physical wave crashing over you. Just trust me, see this show.
4. Peter Lockyer as Jean Valjean. What can I say about Peter Lockyer that you wouldn’t already know just based off the fact that he’s playing one of the most complex and celebrated characters in musical theater? I mean, obviously we know the guy must be able to sing. Valjean’s songbook is difficult, to say the least, what with all the key changes and tempo switches and such pure verbosity in every song he tackles! So we know he would have to be able to sing and Lockyer definitely can do that. And very very very (did I mention very?) well. His voice is broad and strong and could probably bench press me with ease. And of course Lockyer must be able to act because Valjean goes through a tremendous character arc throughout the three hour production. He changes for the better, the worse, for selfish reasons and for totally self-sacrificing reasons too. So yep, Lockyer can Act (and yes, I meant to give that a capital A.)
But let’s address what you’re all thinking, which is how Peter Lockyer’s performance stacks up against Hugh Jackman’s. Come on, you can be honest with me. Of course you’re thinking of the movie and his performance, what with all the Golden Globes love. Let me tell you this way: During Lockyer’s Sililoquy in Act One, you couldn’t take your eyes off him. And there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. I cannot say the same for the movie. Lockyer tapped into a treasure trove deep inside him and was able to give the audience jewel after jewel. His body language alone was electrifying. You felt his angst and struggle and yearning through his pores. You saw it shake him to his core and drag him to his knees. And you loved it when he got up over and over again. Lockyer gave it his all with this show, and the audience was more than willing to take it.
5. Andrew Varela as Javert. Again, to answer the question of how he stacked up against Russell Crowe, I’ll answer it this way: how does Marilyn Monroe stack up against Bea Arthur? Yeah, that’s what I thought. No contest.
6. Briana Carlson-Goodman as Eponine and Devin Ilaw as Marius. Powerhouses. They knocked it out of the ballpark, especially during each of their respective solos (On My Own, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables) but they were marvelous when they acted and sang together (A Little Fall of Rain).
7. Jason Forbach as Enjolras. I looooove this character. I can’t tell you why, considering out of the entire cast, I don’t think he is the most complex of them. But there’s something dashing and daring about him that I can’t help but cheer on. I guess it doesn’t hurt that I love the ABC Cafe scene, also affectionately known as the Red and Black song. It’s the Call Me Maybe of Les Mis. It just sticks in your head and stays there and stays there. I mean, it’s 2:35 in the morning right now and that song is literally all. I. Can. Think. Of. I keep humming it then singing it then belting it. My poor neighbors.
Red! I feel my soul on fire!
I could literally point out every single cast member and say something about them because they were all amazing. So let me just finish this all up by saying: Cast. Perfection.
Black! My world when this show won’t be there!
8. Laurence Connor and James Powell. They directed this juggernaut and man, whatever they said to their cast to get such performances, keep saying it! Always say it! Whatever they drew to get the stage to look the way it did, take photos and save them and then buy a zip drive and save them to that too. Never let those go. And whatever grand vision you had for this production, know that you pulled it off. Seriously, I hadn’t heard that much crying at the end of a production since Rose told Jack she’d never let go and then, y’know, she let go of his hand anyway.
Red! The color of desire!
All in all, this show kicked poor Tom Hooper’s movie’s ass! I mean, did you not read the part about your hair vibrating cause the music was so loud and that you could feel it in your chest? It’s mesmerizing! The show is in town until the end of the month and trust me, even if you think you don’t want to see it, you DO want to see this show! Just be sure not to see it on your oooowwwwnnn!!!!!
Black! The night around me cause it’s three in the morning!
*To purchase tickets (and what are you waiting for?) go here.