Les Misérables

  • Our critic's rating:
    March 1, 2014
    Review by:
    Tulis McCall

    Review by Tulis McCall
    24 March 2014

    OK – It is probably not kosher to admit, but I had to hi-tail it home to Wikipedia because I couldn’t figure out what was going on in this story. I appear to be the one New Yorker who missed this show – not a musical but an operetta I think – the first time and the second time it was here. Third time is a charm I guess. Anyway, what I did understand was that there was a ton of unrequited love. People died too young. Folks were being victimized. Children were tossed into the streets. All in all, it was a Bad Day in Black Rock, but everyone had a song in their hearts, so all was not lost.

    Nineteen years before our story starts, Jean Valjean (Ramin Karimloo) stole a loaf of bread and life was never the same. No matter what he did or how hard he worked, this criminal act followed him all his life. It especially follows him in the person of Javert (Will Swenson), a man of the law who will not let Valjean rest. In spite of this, after a rocky start, when he is released from prison in 1815, Valjean does his best to lead a life worthy of a saint. He raises a child not his own when he discovers that Fantine (Caissie Levy), a woman in his employ, lost her job because she was found to have an illegitimate child. The daughter Cosette (Samantha Hill) was being “cared for” and mostly abused by innkeepers. (This is the child in the show’s artwork, based on a Portrait of “Cosette” by Emile Bayard, from the original edition of Les Misérables). When Fontine dies, Valjean takes in Cosette. Years later he fights in the resistance, and rescues a young man Marius (Andy Mientus) by carrying him through the sewers to safety. When Javert is discovered as a spy behind the barricades, Valjean offers to execute him but instead frees him. Eventually his goodness outweighs the other circumstances so heavily that Javert repents by killing himself.

    On the love side, Marius falls for Cosette, thereby breaking the heart of Éponine (Nikki M. James), who will end up sacrificing her own life so that Marius may live.

    All of this takes place with the backdrop of the 1832 June rebellion in Paris. There are flags flown, stirring speeches, songs and gunshots (terrific sound effects) galore.

    Each of the featured characters has their moment center stage, literally, and the voices are so grand that at times it seemed like a contest with the audience applause meter ready to rock after each number. There are several iconic songs I Dreamed A Dream (I still like Susan Boyle better), On My Own and One Day More. But the showstopper was a ballad, Bring Him Home, sung with such tenderness by Karimloo that it broke our collective hearts. You could almost hear them shatter.

    In the end, Marius and Collette get married and Valjean passes on to a better place. All is well with the world, and another revolution is fomenting in another country. The Ukraine perhaps. While this production is not memorable in any way, it will please the generation who has grown up with American Idol, and it might make the rest of us reflect on the political revolutions being carried on all over the world. Those folks may not be so pretty, and they may not have great songs, but they are out there still. Things don’t change as much as they shift locations.

    (Tulis McCall)

    "Scenic tweaking aside, and an orchestra shrunk to 20 from 27, this 'Les Miz' will offend none of the musical’s fans with any directorial innovations, and will give them a chance to assess how a new generation of performers meets the challenges of the score."
    Charles Isherwood for New York Times

    "It arrives with fine new orchestrations that allow us to again hear the score’s many riches live, without the extreme closeups pocking the Hollywood version."
    Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

    "People don’t just sing, they belt to the heavens. And in this new revival, you mostly soar with them."
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "There's nothing startlingly different, but, under the direction of Laurence Connor and James Powell, it's been freshly conceived, with new staging and design ideas — there are projections based on Hugo's drawings — and thoughtful acting choices that, all together, make the show a more intimate experience."
    Robert Feldberg for The Record

    "This reboot feels faster, grittier, gloomier and, above all, more emphatic than ever, which is saying something for a show that was always an unrelenting assault on the tear ducts."
    David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter

    "Unlike the tentative 2006 revival, this one is a solid piece of theatrical architecture, built to survive every critical arrow shot through its heart."
    Marilyn Stasio for Variety

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - The Record - Hollywood Reporter - Variety