Saturday, March 29, 2014

Les Miserables @ The Imperial Theater

OH GOD! Go see it!
I’m sorry – that was blunt and forceful. In all seriousness now, GO SEE IT! Why haven’t you bought your tickets yet? Go ahead, do it now, don’t worry, I’ll wait.

The Imperial Theatre has been taken over by the barricades of 19th century France. Les Misérables, the classic musical based on the famous book by French author Victor Hugo, has taken charge and once again brought to life the classic story that theatre lovers everywhere have come to know and cherish. Set in the bowels of 19th century France and the impending second revolution, Les Misérables (or Les Miz for short) follows the story of the benevolent Jean Valjean (played by Ramin Karimloo) as he travels through life narrowly escaping the grasp of his counterpart, the law enforcing Javert (played by Will Swenson). Covering a span of nearly 20 years, Les Miz shows us the underbelly of the raw streets of France and the hell its citizens go through just to survive.

Ramin Karimloo leads the cast as Jean Valjean, with an incredible presence and air, if it’s not to bold to say he does original Colm Wilkinson proud. Karimloo was benevolent and beautiful. The highest moment in the show belonged to his rendition of “Bring Him Home”, a powerful ballad sung to Marius in the desperation of battle at the barricades. It was a true moment in which the audience knew something great was happening. It brought the height of desperation and humility. Caissie Levi brought an incredible grace to Fantine, the down-on-her-luck mother of young Cosette. Levi was eloquent, bringing new life into this tragic character. “I Dreamed a Dream” sounded like nothing else, both powerful and heart breaking. 
Andy Mientus as Marius and Samantha Hill as Cosette were complimentary as our young lovers. Mientus was innocent and quite enjoyable to watch, instantly loved and respected from the moment he walks on stage. Hill was gracefully naïve and brought a wonderful softness to this raw world. As adorable the young lovers were to watch, Kyle Scatliffe was a nice contrast of empowerment as Enjorlas, the brave rebellion leader. A stand out moment was not only his death, but the lighting of his lifeless body hanging off the back of a cart; so incredibly sad, with a scent of hopelessness. 
Nikki M. James plays a gripping Eponine, the tough, street-wise, back alley girl, who harbors a secret love for Marius. Her rendition of “On My Own” is another high point in the production and, oh gosh, was it heart wrenching to see her pass to a beautiful “A Little Fall of Rain”. Joshua Colley is wonderfully mischievous as Gavoroche, the king of street rats. But please, bring “Little People” back into the fold. With a Gavroche as adorable as Colley the audience pleads for more of him. Another highlight, in a glorious production was Will Swenson and his rendition of “Stars”. If Valjean is known for his benevolence, then Javert is known for his black and white loyalty to the law. He is a stoic character and Swenson plays him in a fine manner. And of course, who could forget the Thenardier’s! Played by Cliff Saunders and Keala Settle, Thenardier and his feisty spouse are larger than life and properly ridiculous scene stealers. Saunder’s Master of the House is a wonderful moment that leaves you wanting to join the debauchery occurring on stage. It’s a crowd pleaser and it is not hard to see why.
Les Miz is such a classic, well-known musical. Aspiring musical theatre aficionados have cherished it for years and will continue to do so. This revival is a wonderful addition to a famous legacy. Filled with beautiful moments and deep sincerity, it’s safe to say that Cameron Mackintosh has done a splendid job. The set was remarkable, setting Broadway caliber to a new height – with the creative use of beautiful projections that deserve special mention. The lighting was raw, with stark beams of light outlined in smoked used for special effect.

The whole experience was raw, dirty, urban, real, and incredibly astonishing.

Review By: Morgan Mack

Photos By: Matthew Murphy

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