Earlier this week, we took the girls to see Les Misérables, the musical based on the novel by Victor Hugo. This has been one of my favorite musicals since I first watched it on PBS as a child. When I watched the movies with my daughters and the Big Guy, we all sung along and laughed and cried. But nothing beats seeing Les Misérables from any seat in the house at the theater. The voices on stage transport your soul back to a time of civil unrest during the French Revolution.
With glorious new staging and dazzlingly reimagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo, this breathtaking production of Les Misérables, which broke box office records during its pre-Broadway tour, has left both audiences and critics awestruck, cheering “Les Miz is born again!”
Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption-a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Featuring one of the greatest scores of all time, with thrilling and beloved songs including “I Dreamed A Dream,” “On My Own,” “Stars,” “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More,” “Do You Hear the People Sing” and many more, this epic and uplifting story has become one of the most celebrated musicals in theatrical history. Along with the Oscar-winning movie version, it has now been seen by more than 130 million people in 44 countries and in 22 languages around the globe. Les Misérables is still the world’s most popular musical, breaking box office records everywhere in its 33rd year.
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Nominated for three Tony Awards, this latest Broadway production is a more than worthy chapter in Les Miserables’ long history. It debuted at the Imperial Theatre in 2014 and ran for two years, drawing huge acclaim for its stripped-down storytelling, which jettisons some of the bloat attached to previous productions, and the atmospheric video projections that lend the show a hugely cinematic backdrop.
Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Boublil and Schönberg’s Les Misérables has music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer from the original French text by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, additional material by James Fenton and original adaptation by Trevor Nunn and John Caird. The original Les Misérables orchestrations are by John Cameron with new orchestrations by Christopher Jahnke, Stephen Metcalfe and Stephen Brooker. The production is directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell, designed by Matt Kinley inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo with costumes by Andreane Neofitou and Christine Rowland, lighting by Paule Constable, sound by Mick Potter, musical staging by Michael Ashcroft and Geoffrey Garratt and projections by Fifty-Nine Productions. Music Supervision is by Stephen Brooker and James Moore, with casting by Kaitlin Shaw for Tara Rubin Casting.
Speaking of the cast, Nick Cartell as Jean Valjean, was probably the best I’ve ever heard. He moved everyone in the theater the way he told the story of Jean Valjean with his amazing voice. He presented Jean Valjean in an underdog way that made you really want to take him in and help him out. You rooted for him. You wanted to see him get the redemption he so desperately seeked. Another big voice was Paige Smallwood’s, Éponine. I would say she was equal to Cartell’s Jean Valjean. Her voice gave you all the feels and, even though we all know how it turns out for Éponine, I found myself wishing for a plot twist.
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Josh Davis was a powerful and unrelenting Javert and while you want to hate him, you felt this underlying sympathy for him. Josh Davis’ performance was stellar. J Anthony Crane and Allison Guinn, Thénardier and Madame Thénardier, were hilarious and perfectly cast. They masterfully delivered every joke to perfection with bold, vibrant voices and impeccable timing. Other stand out performances were delivered by Matt Shingledecker, as Enjolras, Mary Kate Moore, as Fantine, Joshua Grosso, as Marius, and Jillian Butler, as Cosette. Really the entire cast was stellar. I could watch and listen to this casts’ production of Les Misérables over and over again.
One last cast member that I need to mention, Parker Weathersbee, as Petit Gervais, Gavroche, captivated me. He is making his national tour debut with Les Misérables and he brought the house down with his performance. He is such a big personality in such a young performer.
The new production is currently playing to sold-out houses across North America, Mexico City and on tour in the U.K. To date, Les Misérables remains the 5th longest-running Broadway production of all time. If you’ve never seen Les Misérables, I highly recommend that you go see it on tour.
It has something for everyone; drama, a revolution, history, a love triangle, unrequited love, humor, tenderness, parental love and, my personal favorite, a man doing his best to survive the human condition while chasing redemption with a passion. A theme I think everyone who’s ever lived can relate to some degree. It’s hard to find the words to encompass such an amazing production with such a powerhouse cast. I was moved to tears throughout the show and it wasn’t just me, the Big Guy and my girls were tearing up several times. We were absolutely blown away.
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For me, giving my girls the gift of the theater is one of my favorite things aside from travel. But in a way, aren’t we transported to different spaces and times when we see a Broadway show? The memories of laughing, singing and crying in the theater together, looking over and sharing a smile, giving a standing ovation to a well-deserved group of performers, there is nothing quite like it. We will share those memories forever and one day, when I am gone, my girls will hear Fantine’s Death and think of me and the time we saw Les Misérables together when they were children, well, somewhere between children and women.
I encourage you to share these experiences with your children if they are able to stay up, stay still and mature enough to appreciate the themes. My girls are 11 and 14-years-old but we’ve been taking them to Broadway shows and the ballet since they were preschoolers. This is how their love of the theater began.
I do know that the Tony Award-winning musical phenomenon Les Misérables will return for its much anticipated Chicago engagement at Broadway In Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W Randolph) July 9-27, 2019, direct from a celebrated two-and-a-half year Broadway engagement.
Individual tickets for Les Misérables will go on sale at a later date. For more information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.