I haven’t been able to get these glorious songs by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg out of my head, since seeing the new 25th Anniversary Production of LES MISERABLES at the Boston Opera House last week. The show remains a pulverizing extravaganza of story, music, and emotion, as powerful as the first time I saw it 25 years ago in Boston– in some respects better, in others slightly diminished.
I will get this out of the way early: I miss the turntable, that signature piece of stagecraft which ingeniously set the cast whirling through time, gathering momentum, in novelist Victor Hugo’s sweeping saga of tragedy and triumph. It’s a loss. Re-imagined and newly staged by producer Cameron Mackintosh the turntable is replaced by video projections inspired by Hugo’s moody and evocative paintings; Javert’s death, and the scenes in the sewers don’t work quite as well, but the lighting is beautiful and so are the stars that shine on this brilliantly talented cast.
From the opening number, there is a propulsive urgency; these voices communicate an intense energy that is palpable and perfectly calibrated to each character: Jean Valjean (J.Mark McVey) has a voice of soaring timbre and tender delicacy, especially in the heartbreaking “Bring Him Home” which brought the house down. Valjean’s nemesis Javert (Andrew Varela) the police inspector in relentless pursuit, has a volcanic baritone that fills up every nook and cranny of the Opera House–and stopped the show.
As Fantine, Betsy Morgan (Emerson Alum?) broke my heart with her aching vocals. And the Thenardiers–the coarse couple who greedily take in Fantine’s little daughter Cosette (Richard Vida and Shawna M. Hamic) are bawdier than I remember; their over-the-top ribaldry is downright hilarious. As Eponine, Chasten Harmon has a more contemporary sound and sensibility which almost pulled me out of 19th Century Paris and its environs– but which my 18 year old– whose judgment I trust– assures me absolutely worked for her.
You can “dream the dream” and see LES MIZ at the Boston Opera House through April 1st!