Love and honor are redemptive influences, and monumental themes against which to profile a life.
Cameron Mackintosh’s 25th Anniversary production of Boubil & Schönberg’s Les Miserables, at the Imperial Theatre, is about the triumph of the human spirit against adversity and misfortune. Victor Hugo’s novel, adapted by Trevor Nunn and John Caird, is the basis of this grand theaterpiece.
Hugo’s epic is distilled into an operatic narrative for which Alain Boublil created the libretto and original lyrics in 1980, in collaboration with Claude-Michel Schönberg and with English lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. The music in Les Miz–as it is affectionately called– swells and falls lushly in rousing melodies.
The story covers alot of ground from a prison in 1815 to the barricades of the Paris rebellion in 1832. The revolution of 1832 was a kind of follow-up event. The Bastille was stormed in 1789 and the French had a new and beneficent monarch by 1832. Nonetheless, income inequality grew and the problems of the downtrodden poor worsened. It is the student uprising in June of 1832 in Paris that is the culmination of Broadway’s big chronicle.
Les Miz is a stirring musical theater event.
Jean Valjean (Ramin Karimloo) is released from prison for stealing a loaf of bread to save his sister’s son, aided by a benevolent priest (Adam Monley) and then pursued by the strait-laced policeman, Javert (Earl Carpenter.) The priest’s act of kindness towards him elevates the convict and transforms Jean Valjean into a man. Javert only sees things as black and white; those who once committed any crime will always be criminals in his world. Jean Valjean reinvents himself as a productive citizen. He finds purpose for his wealth in saving Fantine’s (Erika Henningsen, in a Broadway debut) daughter Cossette (as a child, Fabi Aguirre.) He owes a debt to Fantine because he ignored her plight when she worked in his factory.
Valjean is redeemed through his role as Cossette’s “father,” and as she grows into a young woman (Samantha Hill,) he finds another source of redemption in helping her lover Marius (Chris McCarrell.)
All the humor in Les Miz falls on the skinny shoulders of “The Master of the House,” Thénardier (Gavin Lee) and his Madame (Rachel Izen.) They are comically corrupt and greedy souls who prey on those as poor and downtrodden as they themselves are. They are outlaws, with no revolution in them; their zeal is for acquisition and stealing. Unlike Valjean, and even Javert, these characters do not grow. Their daughter Éponine (Brennyn Lark, another fine Broadway debut), once pampered by her ma (the young Éponine, played by Lilyana Cornell) is a street waif in her father’s gang whose love for Marius gives her transcendence.
The costumes (by Andreane Neofitou and Christine Rowland) underscore the differences between the struggling poor and the well-to-do, and set the time for the action. The sets and images are based on Victor Hugo’s paintings and designed by Matt Kinley. The 25th anniversary production, at home on Broadway since March 2014, is directed with all its moving parts and grandiloquent staging, by Laurence Connor and James Powell.
As reincarnated here, it should have a long life on Broadway again. (We anticipated this visit here.)
For more information and to get tickets, go to http://www.lesmis.com/broadway/