Reviewed by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
Did anyone else feel like it was a speed through? Magnificent though it is, there’s something about the Les Misérables (North American Tour) re-do, currently at the Hollywood Pantages, that didn’t allow me to catch my breath.
Perhaps, of course, I haven’t kept up with the evolution of this show, but having experienced one of the earliest stage productions of the original play long ago, and of course, every single movie version of the story since, there seemed to be a very noticeable departure from the more melodic vocal arrangements. And it kept me in a state of perplexity and sometimes anxiety, throughout the entire performance.
While the new orchestrations by Stephen Metcalfe, Christopher Jahnke and Stephen Booker, were stunning, the vocal interpretations were breathy rather than full bodied, often nearly spoken instead of sung, and far more percussive and violent than one might remember this now modern classic musical to be. The singers seemed to be singing far ahead of the notes, creating a frantic delivery that did not begin to ease until Jean Valjean’s second act number “Bring Him Home.”
Granted it is a long show (new material has apparently been added by James Fenton) and the cast, quite flawlessly delivered several arduous hours of courage, passion and resilience of the human spirit, keeping the intensity at a crest from start to finish. But I suppose, that is the point I’m trying to make. On one hand, this version of Les Mis is a tour de force rendition. On the other, going for unrelenting, rapid-paced gusto at every possible moment, without breath or pause, and barely a note of empathy, thoroughly diminishes the deep emotional resonance that this musical, possibly more than any other, has always had the ability to evoke. In a way, in its enthusiasm to create a fresh presentation, the show stays very much on the surface, and fails, just a bit, to recognize human pathos in its full capacity.
Newer elements, however, are quite creative. Replacing the turn table that has formerly moved the cast about the stage are now video projections that effectively bring to life visual aspects that previously could only be imagined by the audience. People of 19th century Paris actually march through the streets, and Inspector Gilbert’s long death leap into the river below is prolonged to sad and painful effect, for instance. The entire piece is far more dark with costumes, lighting and set design echoing a decadent cynicism of the Parisian underworld, perhaps meant to juxtapose the bright and shiny religious reform tones of the lyrics; which it does, especially in redemption moments when shafts of light shine onto characters like angelic visitations. The themes of justice and morality have always been center stage in the script, but they are somehow, far more pronounced here, causing the heart wrenching love stories of Fantine (Haley Dortch), Cosette (Addie Morales), Eponine (Christine Heesun Hwang) and Marius (Gregory Lee Rodriguez) to be almost emotionally eviscerated. Except, though for Jean Valjean (played by Nick Carnell). Valjean keeps the singularly poignant spotlight throughout the show.
In essence, though, this iteration of Les Misérables, in every way, is a reflection of our own time. And any changes that have been made, run decidedly lateral of the current state of human affairs – which was the purpose of Victor Hugo’s sweeping novel in 1862. Certainly, the concerns with social issues and the critiques of wealth distribution, the justice system, industrialism, which is now called the Technology (AI) Age, and republicanism are absolutely front and center today as they were then. The never-ending feelings of desperation that are consummated throughout the play, even the pacing of the show is also descriptive of the outer and inner feelings of people today, young and old. And, if for no other reason but these, Les Misérables is a stunning summation and capture of present day reality, that somehow turns the terrible into the celebratory. And for that reason, although our hearts could definitely use a little more of the former love influence in this presentation, Les Misérables’ brilliant power to raise the human spirit, is, ultimately, enduring.
***Please note that all Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening performances of Les Misérables will start at 7:30. All performances will begin promptly at the scheduled curtain time. There is a 13 minute seating hold for this show. Please plan your travel accordingly.
SEVEN WEEKS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
AUGUST 1 – SEPTEMBER 10, 2023
HOLLYWOOD PANTAGES THEATRE
SEPTEMBER 19 – OCTOBER 1, 2023
SEGERSTROM CENTER FOR THE ARTS
LOS ANGELES INFORMATION
August 1 – September 10, 2023
Hollywood Pantages Theatre
6233 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028 Tuesday – Thursday at 7:30pm
Friday at 8pm
Saturday at 2pm & 8pm
Sunday at 1pm & 6:30pm
Tickets: BroadwayInHollywood.com or Ticketmaster.com 1-800-982-2787
Hollywood Pantages Box Office (Visit website for hours)
Cameron Mackintosh’s production of LES MISÉRABLES is written by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg and is based on the novel by Victor Hugo. It has music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and original French text by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, additional material by James Fenton and adaptation by Trevor Nunn and John Caird. Orchestrations are by Stephen Metcalfe, Christopher Jahnke and Stephen Brooker with original orchestrations by John Cameron. The production is directed by James Powell and Laurence Connor, designed by Matt Kinley inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo, with costumes by Andreane Neofitou, additional costume designs by Christine Rowland and Paul Wills, lighting by Paule Constable, sound by Mick Potter, projections realized by Finn Ross, Jonathon Lyle and Fifty Nine Productions, musical staging by Geoffrey Garratt, music supervision by Stephen Brooker and James Moore.
Los Angeles Cast:
Nick Cartell and Preston Truman Boyd return to the barricades to portray the fugitive ‘Jean Valjean’ and ‘Inspector Javert,’ respectively. They are joined by Matt Crowle as ‘Thénardier,’ Christina Rose Hall as ‘Madame Thénardier,’ Haley Dortch as ‘Fantine,’ Devin Archer as ‘Enjolras,’ Christine Heesun Hwang as ‘Éponine,’ Gregory Lee Rodriguez as ‘Marius’ and Addie Morales as ‘Cosette.’ Vivian Atencio and Cora Jane Messer alternate in the role of ‘Little Cosette/Young Éponine.’ Henry Kirk and Milo Maharlika alternate in the role of ‘Gavroche.’
Touring Ensemble: includes Kyle Adams, Daniel Gerard Bittner, Ciaran Bowling, Jenna Burns, Julie Cardia, Ben Cherington, Steve Czarnecki, Kelsey Denae, Arianne DiCerbo, Genevieve Ellis, David Young Fernandez, Michelle Beth Herman, Randy Jeter, Daelynn Carter Jorif, Olivia J. Lu, Eden Mau, Andrew Marks Maughan, Benjamin H. Moore, Nicole Morris, Ashley Dawn Mortensen, Sofie Nesanelis, Tim Quartier, Julia Ellen Richardson, Ethan Rogers, Christopher Robin Sapp, Emily Somé, Christopher James Tamayo, Kyle Timson, Hazel Vogel and J.T. Wood.
Music Director/Conductor, Brian Eads
Associate Conductor/Keyboards, Eric Ebbing
Assistant Conductor/Keyboards, Tim Lehihan
Violin/Concertmaster, Ally Jenkins
Drums/Percussion/Malleets/Timpani, Max Meyer
Music Coordinator, John Miller
Viola – Linnea Powell; Cello – Ira Glansbeek; Double Bass – Ian Walker; Flute/Piccolo/Alto Flute/Recorder – Amy Tatum; Oboe/English Horn – Michele Forrest; B Flat Clarinet/E Flat Clarinet/Bass Clarinet/Tenor Recorder – Jeff Driskill: French horn 1 – Emily Pesavento; French Horn 2 – Katie Faraudo; Trump/Flugelhorn/Piccolo Trumpet – Aaron Smith; Bass Trombone/Tuba – Calan Milani; Keyboard Sub – Mary Ekler; Orchestra Contractor – Eric Heinly.
Photo: “One Day More” from Les Misérables featuring Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade
To date, LES MISÉRABLES remains the 6th longest-running Broadway production of all time.
Since Cameron Mackintosh first conceived this acclaimed new production of LES MISÉRABLES in 2009 to celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary, it has taken the world by storm continuing to enjoy record-breaking runs in countries including North America, Australia, Japan, Korea, France and Spain. It is currently on stage in London’s West End and on tour in The Netherlands and Belgium with a new tour of Japan in 2024. The most recent North American production toured from 2017 to March 2020, playing 94 engagements until the production was halted due to the global pandemic.