& Claude-Michel Schonberg
Based on the Victor Hugo novel
Music by Claude-Michel Schonberg
Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer
Directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell
Musical Direction by Robert Billig
Produced by Broadway in Chicago
At the Cadillac Palace Theatre, Chicago
“To love another person is to see the face of God.”
–Victor Hugo from Les Miserables
After 25 years the new National Tour of Les Miz is still fresh and heartfelt
When you mount a National Tour of a show such as Les Miserables with some fresh new elements and orchestrations, you best not alienate those of us who adore the original show. Thankfully, Cameron Mackintosh’s 2011 National Tour keeps the essence of show that has pleased over 60 million people from 42 countries and in 21 languages over a 25 year span! This National Tour, now at the Cadillac Palace Theatre until February 27, has a few new twists, some new rich orchestrations with ample use of video projections in key scenes. Gone is the large revolving barricade that is hardly missed. With a cast of energetic singers and two African-Americans playing Jean Valjean (the wonderful Lawrence Clayton) and Eponine (the velvet voiced Chasten Harmon), this fresh production moves swiftly never missing a beat.
This classic opera contains a great score, wonderful songs and an uplifting story of the power of the human spirit and unconditional love. Full of romance, passion, suspense and humanity, it is the story of one man, the fugitive Jean Valjean who is pitted against the self-righteous police office, Javert (powerfully sung by Andrew Varela) in a lifelong struggle to avoid capture. Les Miz is the story of the oppressed poor in 1815-1830’s France. Victor Hugo was a reform minded socialist bent on dramatizing the plight of the oppressed.
The sweeping tale covering three decades in France begins with a haunting Prologue that sets the dark tone. We hear Lawrence Clayton as Valjean in his Soliloquay. We quickly empathize with Valjean. The plight of the poor in vividly depicted in “Factory Workers” where we meet Fontine (Betsy Morgan) who sells her hair and body to sustain her child Cosette (Katherine Forrester). Fontine becomes ill and Valjean, now the mayor and prosperous factory owner promises Fontine that he’ll raise Cosette as his own. We hear two fabulous songs in this section: “I Dreamed a Dream” (nailed richly by Morgan) and “Who Am I?” Valjean’s conscious speaking to himself. He is deciding what kind of man he is going to be. The hauntingly beautiful “Come To Me” duet has Fontine and Valjean singing to her death.
Young Cosette sings her dream in “Castle On A Cloud” and her guardians, the thieving Thenardiers sing their innkeeper practices in the rousing comic “Master of the House.”
Its 1832 and the students see the deprivation of the poor in Paris as the beggars and young Gavroche (Josh Caggiano) lament in “Look Down.” Javert sings his ode to his commitment to righteousness in the terrific anthem “Stars” sung in a movingly heart wrenching turn by Andrew Varela. The students are moved to action with the anthems “Red and Black” and “Do You Hear The People Sing?” Theses calls to action are thrilling moments. Marius (Justin Scott Brown), Cosette (Jenny Latimer) and the beggar girl Eponine (Chasten Harmon) sing “In My Life” as they search for love that explodes into “A Heart Full of Love” as Eponine sings to Marius who sings to Cosette. Act one ends with the ode to life in “One Day More.”
Act two finds Eponine singing to her loneliness in “On My Own,” a stirring song to love. Eponine gets shot entering the barricade the student erect to fight the French Army. “A Little Fall of Rain” is Eponine’s dying song to Marius who is moved by her love and loyalty. “Drink With Me to Days Gone By” has Grantaire (Joesph Speildenner) saying good-by to his fellow students who may all die in the coming battle. Valjean joins the student fighters and sings the shows best song in the mesmerizing sad “Bring Him Home.” Lawrence Clayton reaches the falsetto notes easily as he nails the pray for Marius to live.. The battle erupts and Valjean saves the wounded Marius. Javert meets Valjean as he takes Marius to the hospital. Javert pays his debt to Valjean for his life and then realizes that Valjean is, indeed, a righteous man, not himself. The women and Marius sing a sad song to their fallen comrades in “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables.”
Les Miserables ends with the hope for life as it emotionally pays homage to the power of the human spirit. The opera ends as with a dying Valjean giving his life lesson to Cosette and Marius: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
This 2011 National Tour of Les Miz is a wonderful production that sings nicely with some exquisite moments; it also stirs the emotions. It is an epic story of oppression that finds one good man, one zealot and a group of idealistic students each trying to make a difference in a harsh and cruel world. We see how eventually, goodness and humanity contained in resilient folks wins for a bright future. This is a richly emotional show filled with big anthems, rousing marches and tender love songs and sad laments that will leave you in tears. The power of the live stage and haunting music rings so true. See Les Miserables once again and rekindle your spirits. This beautiful show is artful that teens will enjoy. It is one of my all-time favorite shows.
Talk Theatre in Chicago
Date Reviewed: February 4, 2011
For full show information, check out the Les Miserables page at Theatre In Chicago.
Schedule and prices at www.broadwayinchicago.com
To see some samples for the 25th Anniversary National Tour: