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Theatre Review: Les Miserables
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Les Miserables
Written by Victor Hugo
Adapted by Alain Boublil and Claude Michel Schonberg
Directed by James Powell and Laurence Connor
Produced by Cameron Mackintosh
Starring Ramin Larimloo, Will Swenson, Caissie Levy, Nikki James, Samantha Hill, Andy Mientus, Cliff Saunders, and Keala Settle.
Imperial Theatre
The Shubert Organization
Opening Night: March 23, 2014

In Les Miserables, Jean Valjean is released from prison after 19 years for stealing bread for his hungry sister’s child. He cannot shake prisoner “24601” as promised by his lifelong nemesis, Javert. Unable to find work, he falls back into a life of crime, but is saved by the bishop he stole from, who urges him to “use this precious silver, to become an honest man.”

Valjean ends up transforming himself into Mayor Lumiere, who is well-respected by everyone, including Javert, who doesn’t recognize him. Inadvertently causing poor Fantine to lose her job, and forcing her into a life of prostitution until she succumbs to sickness, Valjean realizes he needs to make right by the newly orphaned daughter of Fantine, Cosette, while simultaneously avoiding Javert, who is now after him with renewed force.

Snatching young Cosette from the corrupt Thenardiers, he raises her as his own. Years later he finds revolutionaries taking a stand against the French government. One of them, Marius, falls instantly in love with Cosette, much to the chagrin of his friend, Eponine, who despite the unrequited love, helps him get together with Cosette and stands by him in battle. Valjean joins the cause to protect Marius, whom he knows will take care of Cosette after he is gone. Who is left standing? Spoiler alert-the title is the clue!

Les Miserables returned to Broadway on March 23rd, 2014 after a six-year hiatus (originally 1987-2003, then 2006-2008). The story has not changed from the original production. Why mess with perfection?

The biggest difference is that there is no longer the revolving stage, and the sets seem grittier. One other small change that seems huge (as there are children in the audience often) is the raunchiness and sexual moments that had been added seemingly to give a bit of realism to the prostitution and the naughtiness of the inn.

And the songs…return the chills that have been forgotten. Ramin Karimloo and Will Swenson circle as nemeses Valjean and Javert in perfectly choreographed enmity, aging through the musical as if it was life. The minute you hear “Valjean at last, we see each other plain…”, you want to jump in as the other half of that intense duet. The Thenardiers delight as they usually do in every version, with their slovenly ways and bawdy numbers. Fantine has the worst life ever. Just try not to cry during “I Dreamed a Dream” or “Come to Me.” The love of Marius and Cosette is pure and innocent, while the pining and sacrificing of Eponine (played by Tony winner Nikki James) is dark and bittersweet.

This production, produced by original producer Cameron Mackingtosh, lives up to its hype. You’ll be standing at the barricade (OK–your seats), belting out “One Day More” along with the cast and every other audience member.

Drink with me…to another 16-year run.

Les Miserables Broadway #1

Les Miserables Broadway #2

Les Miserables Broadway #3

Les Miserables Broadway #4

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