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“Les Misérables” Revisited

A lavish spectacle with a tender soul.

Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables” (Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore)

Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables” (Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

The revival of Les Misérables, at the Imperial Theatre, is a fresh reassessment of the show by its two directors, Laurence Connor and James Powell. They’ve streamlined the beloved thirty-year old classic into a fast-paced theatrical powerhouse, with brilliant new scenery by Matt Kinley, lighting by Paule Constable, orchestrations by Christopher Jahnke, Stephen Metcalfe, and Stephen Brooker,and a fresh cast of game, hardworking singer/actors.

Two starry new cast members add luster to the show:  English musical and opera star Alfie Boe as the tragic Jean Valjean and Tony Award nominee Montego Glover as the ill-fated Fantine.  Their fresh takes on these characters—their often surprising choices—are in synch with the directors’ emphasis on the inner lives of this colorful panoply of Victor Hugo’s mid-nineteenth century French characters.

Boe, known to Americans from the 25th Anniversary Les Miz celebration televised here on PBS and his starring role in Baz Luhrmann’s La Bohème, brings a clarion tenor and a warm, three-dimensional interpretation of what could easily turn into an unexciting too-good-to-be-true role of an honorable man; Glover, the star of Memphis and the recent It Shoulda Been You, displays a subtle artistry, finding operatic qualities in her multi-layered voice.   His “Bring Him Home” and her “I Dreamed a Dream,” the numbers most identified with their characters, have never sounded more human-scaled and moving.

Montego Glover as Fantine in “Les Miserables” (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

Montego Glover as Fantine in “Les Misérables” (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

Even as these two stars infuse the show with new blood, attracting old and new aficionados to this production, this Les Miz is larger than the sum of its parts, starting with the flowing painterly scenic and video image designs by Kinley that evoke such artists as Corot, Millet and Turner.  Constable’s lighting enhances both the scenery and the period perfect costumes by Andreane Neofitou and Christine Rowland.

Then there are the stalwarts of this cast that still find freshness in their roles.   Earl Carpenter as Javert does a remarkable job of making this hard-edged, single-minded man believable and, yes, even likeable.  His voice is strong.  As the comic relief and sardonic Greek chorus of the show, the Thénardiers can easily slip into caricature: Rachel Izen and Gavin Lee were, indeed, properly venal and greedy, but they also were humans with real heart under their unattractive surfaces.   Chris McCarrell really doesn’t have the vocal heft for the romantic lead, Marius, but he’s handsome and ardent to his Cosette, Alex Finke, an unusually robust, big-voiced ingénue.  Wallace Smith makes a particularly effective Enjolras, the leader of the student rebels.  His voice is smooth and his acting heroic.  Éponine, tragically and unrequitedly in love with Marius is played by Brennyn Lark with vitality and passion.

The children in the cast, all terrific are, as Gavroche, the mascot of the student rebels, Sam Chuck who exhibits a confidence way beyond his years and, as young Cosette, Fabi Aguirre who is sweet and spunky.

Les Misérables is a lavish spectacle with a tender soul.

Les Misérables (through September 4, 2016)

Imperial Theatre, 249 West 45th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets call 212-239-6200 or visit http://www.telecharge.com

For more information visit http://www.LesMiz.com/Broadway

Running time:  three hours including one intermission

Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (226 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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