Before Rent had us singing “525,600 minutes,” there was the number 24601. In the late 1980s, Les Misérables may have been the very first numbers earwig for many musical theater fans. And now you can see it live… and have it in your head all over again!
Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Boublil And Schönberg’s Les Misérables is still breaching box office barricades around the world as the U.S. national tour of Les Miz makes a stop in Cleveland, Ohio at Playhouse Square now through November 18, 2018. Playing the Connor Palace, audiences will swoon over familiar hits like “I Dreamed A Dream,” “On My Own,” “Stars,” “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More,” and “Do You Hear the People Sing.”
In case you’ve been living under a rock and need a quick walk through:
Les Miz opened in London in 1985, with its Broadway opening in 1987. The show is based on the original French text by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, with additional material by James Fenton.
A Summary from the Playhouse Square / Tour talking points:
“The action begins in 1815 as Jean Valjean [prisoner #24601], a man condemned to 19 years of hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family, finds only hatred and suspicion when he is released on parole. Meeting one man who believes in him, Valjean breaks his parole to begin a new life. The story truly begins as Jean Valjean crosses the landscape of early 19th century France, always pursued by the righteous police inspector Javert. From his adoption and love of the orphan Cosette, to the darkly funny plots of the thieving Thénardiers, from the soaring revolutionary fire of the student rebels who fight on the barricade in the streets of Paris to the final confrontation between Jean Valjean and Javert, the story of Les Misérables is one of love, courage and redemption.”
This production is beautiful, with an array of lights and projections that work together to suck the audience into the streets of Paris. Combined with the haze and the sound effects, it’s as if one can feel the night air, breathe in the desperation, and get lost in sights and sounds of rebellion.
The cast does a commendable job with the familiar material. This production takes some liberties with the music, such as speeding up some of the held notes during the verses to power into the next phrases (which moves the songs along faster). They also leave out Gavroche’s “Little People,” although some would say the song is not really missed (phrases of it appear in the show, though).
The children are cute as buttons. On the night viewed, Madeleine Guilbot hit all her notes as Little Cosette, and Sam Middleton proved to be a hugely adorable rascal of a personality as Gavroche.
Paige Smallwood plugs along as the best friend, Eponine, for the first act. Then she truly shines when she hits her stride, roaring beautifully through “On My Own” (which is THE anthem for those perpetually designated to the Friend Zone).
Joshua Grosso plays a young, awkward and searching Marius. Jullian Butler’s beautiful Cosette doesn’t seem to be played as “needy” as in other tours. The two together are enjoyable, and their voices are pleasant. “A Heart Full of Love” has a surprising and really funny vocal insert of what could be Marius’ true inside thoughts about the whole Cosette situation (meeting and falling in love after only like… an hour. But hey, who are we to judge?)
J Anthony Crane is a charismatically wicked Thénardier – there is so much love in our hatred of him! It is exquisite to watch him banter about with Madame Thénardier, played by Allison Guinn. These two characters would scam their own mothers!
Finally, Josh Davis as Javert and Nick Cartell as Jean Valjean – they are the yin and yang of what we know as “duty.” Javert is voracious in his pursuit of upholding the law, and Valjean needs to run from the law to do right by Fantine (played by Mary Kate Moore, who heart-wrenchingly KILLS “I Dreamed a Dream” – in the best way possible). These two men who are at odds for decades clash in their execution, but not in their philosophy of what’s right. In the end, they both only want to do the correct thing. They are at different sides of an extreme, and when all is done they each face themselves in judgement.
The bass-baritone vocals on Davis are powerful and resonating. Cartell’s singing is soaring and commanding, reaching tenor notes in the stratosphere and holding them with authority. This pair makes for a physically and vocally strong duo, and the characters are worthy adversaries.
The highlight of the show is Valjean’s “Bring Him Home.” The earnestness with which Cartell sings this prayer is heart-breaking. His ability to vocally go from hushed tones to barreling-through-the-clouds with volume and range is truly something to witness. Chills.
Other interesting Les Miz facts provided by the tour include:
• Along with the Oscar‐winning movie, Les Misérables has been seen by over 130 million people worldwide in 45 countries, 350 cities and in 22 languages.
• There have been 47 cast recordings of Les Misérables (including albums, singles, symphonic and digital download albums). Both the Original Broadway cast album and the Symphonic recording won Grammy Awards.
• To date, Les Misérables remains the 5th longest‐running Broadway production of all time. There are over 2,500 productions of the Les Misérables School’s Edition scheduled or being performed by over 125,000 school children in the UK, US and Australia.
• Each performance entails some 392 complete costumes consisting of some 1782 items of clothing and 31 wigs.
Don’t miss your chance to raise your flag over the barricade either for the first time, or for a repeat performance of Les Misérables! You will hear the people sing at the Connor Palace at Playhouse Square now through November 18, 2018. Find tickets and information by visiting www.playhousesquare.org, or calling 216-241-6000.