The spiffed-up 25th anniversary production of Les Miserables opened for an eight-show run at the Morrison Center on Sept. 19 to a full house of eager fans of this monumental pop-opera musical.
The worlds longest-running musical, Les Miserables got a remodel for its 25th birthday in 2010 from producer Cameron Mackintosh, who produced the original in 1985.
It tells the same epic story of Victor Hugos novel about Jean Valjean (Peter Lockyer), who is pushed by circumstance to steal a loaf of bread and imprisoned for 19 years. He breaks parole and spends the next 17 years pursued by the righteously relentless Inspector Javert (Richard Todd Adams).
With a richly thematic score by French composer Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyricists Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel (English lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, with additional material by James Fenton), the original production, adapted and directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caird, proved that the show has staying power.
For longtime fans of the original production, this is a bit like seeing your favorite book made into a movie it doesnt quite meet your expectations.
The revolving stage is gone, along with Nunn and Cairds environmental approach that used actors to create sets and left large open areas on the stage that were filled by the actors emotionality.
Thats replaced by Matt Kinleys large, moving, darkly lit sets of shuttered and dank buildings that make the stage feel cramped.
The sound lacked depth and added to the boxed-in feeling of the production. Chris Jahnkes new orchestrations quicken the tempos, but that makes some moments feel rushed, such as Fantines (Betsy Morgan) less contemplative take on I Dreamed a Dream.
James Powells and Laurence Connors direction seeks to inject immediacy into the proceeding but manages only to make it feel rushed. Slow might be boring, but that doesnt translate to faster is better.
Still, there are wonderful performances by this incredibly strong cast, peppered with gorgeous voices that pop out of the chorus.
Lockyers Valjean is deeply affecting, with just enough pathos and regret, but not overly melodramatic. His voice ranges from piercingly dynamic to lullaby soft. Adams brings a nice touch of humanity to Javert and turned in a beautifully emotional turn in his solos.
Morgan makes a beautifully frail and vulnerable Fantine, but her voice is a bit thin. Lauren Wileys reedy soprano might be more apt in a Disney musical, but shes a good match for Max Quinlins earnest Marius.
Briana Carlson-Goodman is expressive and lovely as the tragic waif Eponine, and Jason Forbach makes for a swashbuckling revolutionary Enjolras.
The three child performers Abby Rose Gould, Erin Clearlock and Marcus DAngelo as Young Cosette and Eponine and Gavroche are impressive.
With a larger-than-life voice and presence, Heather Jane Rolff is hysterical as Madame Thenardier and overpowers Timothy Gulans innkeeper/thief Thenardier, who was difficult to hear throughout.
This darker, more technical take on Les Miz utilizes flying scrims, moving projections of Hugos artwork most effectively used to create the sewers of Paris and some fancy flying technology that give the piece a cinematic feel.
All this Wicked-ization of Les Miserables does seem to propel it into our less patient, 3D-movie world. But all the technical bells and whistles sap some of the heart out of it and make one long for the simpler past.
Dana Oland: 377-6442, Twitter: @IDS_DanaOland