By Jane Meyer
The Broadway revival of Les Miserables has hit the Imperial Theater on Broadway. For those of you who may have missed the original, have no fear for you haven’t missed a thing! There are musicals and then there are MUSICALS and Les Miz is most assuredly in the latter category. After enjoying many Broadway productions over the years this is the first time I feel as though I have actually experienced a Broadway show.
Les Miz transports the audience back to 18th century France and the growing unrest and ensuing riots which are now considered an epoch of French Revolutionary history. Victor Hugo’s tale is a familiar one to most by now, (in no small part due to the movie version starring Anne Hathaway). It opens with the story of Jean Valjean who is has been given an inhumane prison sentence of five years hard labor for stealing bread to feed his niece. After several escape attempts his sentence is extended each time and he is finally released 19 years later. While technically released- he is not truly free because he is required to present a yellow ticket everywhere he goes which identifies him as an untrustworthy criminal.
Following a parallel path is the lovely Fantine who was seduced and left penniless with a baby and shunned, like Valjean, by her fellow factory workers. Her baby Cosette is her yellow ticket which prohibits rather than allows entry. Through a series of events, by the time Valjean and Fantine’s paths eventually cross, Valjean has become a wealthy and well-respected citizen successfully concealing his past. As Fantine lays dying, Valjean vows to raise her daughter Cosette just as his past starts to catch up with him in the form of the relentless police inspector, Javert.
The Iranian- born, Canadian-raised Ramin Karimloo makes his Broadway debut as Valjean. His stellar leading man performance of the unfortunate Valjean laced with vulnerability is sung to perfection in Bring Him Home. The high octaves Karimloo reaches so tenderly in this song showcase his talent as not just someone who can belt them out, (which he can also do), but as a performer with control over his instrument. He is quiet and perfect at just the right moments. In fact the original, and well-loved, Valjean, Colm Wilkinson, has given Karimloo his blessings. Look for their outstanding duet of “Bring Him Home” on YouTube.
Fantine, who is played by the very talented Caissie Levy also hits all the marks. Her version of “I Dreamed a Dream” is richly sung with just the right amount of grit for the subject matter while remaining Broadway worthy. Valjean’s archenemy Javert played by the impressive Will Swenson makes a great “bad guy” with impressive vocals and acting ability. Samantha Hill is reprising her role as Cosette she played in Toronto. Hill is no stranger to Broadway having played the coveted role of Christine in Phantom of the Opera. Here again her operatic voice and her petite stature make her perfect for the part. The entire cast of this Broadway production of Les Miz is a treasure!
Known for its gut wrenching lyrics and swelling numbers, the longest running musical in the world, doesn’t disappoint. By the time the final and climactic “One Day More” number the audience couldn’t wait to get to their feet applauding and yahooing more fitting behavior, it might seem, for a rock concert but we all knew how magical the night had been. Les Miz is not to be missed!
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