I have lost count of the number of times I have seen the enduring musical “Les Misérables.” starting with the original Broadway production in 1987, and most recently, a superb 2014 Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre production. But hands down, Cameron Macintosh’s imposing North American Tour production of Alain Boubil and Claude-Michael Schönberg’s ‘s Tony Award-winning masterpiece was the best of all. The show presented by Broadway in Indianapolis, runs through Sunday, March 18 at the Old National Centre‘s Murat Theatre. I attended Tuesday’s opening night, sold out performance.
Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, ‘“Les Misérables” chronicles the travails of prisoner-on-parole, 24601, Jean Valjean, as he flees from the obsessed Inspector Javert on a journey beyond the barricades, at the center of the 1832 Paris Uprising. Meanwhile, the life of a working class girl with a child is at a turning point as she succumbs to prostitution to pay money to a blackhearted innkeeper and his equally evil wife who look after her child, Cosette. Valjean pledges to take care of the child, who, as an adult becomes involved in a love triangle between herself Marius, a student rebel and Eponine, a girl of the streets. Also focal to the story are the sacrifices made by angry citizens and students, led by Enjolras, who fight, to the death, upon the barricades.
What made this “Les Mis”so special? First of all, the performers vocals were absolutely spectacular, especially those of Josh Davis (Javert) in “Stars,” Nick Cartell (Valjean) in “Bring Him Home,” Talia Simone Robinson (Eponine) “On My Own,” Matt Shingledecker (Enjolras) in “Do You Hear The People Sing,” Robert Ariza (Marius) in “Empty Chairs at Emply Tables,” and Jillian Butler (Cosette) in “Castle On A Cloud.” I was absolutely transfixed by their interpretations of these Boubil & s Schönberg songs, many of which have become iconic.
Enhancing the magnificent singing of the leads and the company as a whole, was Mick Potter’s impeccable sound design. Contributing to the transfixing quality of the production were Paule Constable’s lighting design and Matt Kindley’s resplendent set and image design, inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo. Adding to the show’s arresting visual appeal were Andreane Neofitou and Christine Rowlands’s costumes designs.
Directed by Lawrence Connor and James Powell, with musical staging by Michael Ashcroft and Geoffrey Garatte, the show which clocks in at two hours and 50 minutes, has a long first act but overall, the show’s swift pace and the dynamic energy of the cast kept me thoroughly engaged.
With its themes of broken dreams, unrequited love and redemption, the story of “Les Miserables” is a testament to the survival of the human spirit. No matter how times you may have seen this musical or if have never seen it at all, you will come away feeling dazzled by the onslaught of visual and auditory stimulation and spectacle and certainly inspired by a tale that is timeless.
‘“Les Misérables,” at the Old National Centre plays through Friday & Saturday evenings at 8 pm, Saturday matinee at 2 pm, Sunday matinee at 1 pm, and Sunday evening at 6:30 pm. Tickets are available in person at the Old National Centre Ticket Office, online at BroadwayinIndianapolis.com, or by phone at 1-(800) 982-2787.