cast triumphs for 1 tour more of 'Les Miz'
- Playing this fall at Playhouse
Square: the parade of the dinosaurs. And so far,
they are anything but extinct.
- While we're waiting for the
Broadway Series to start the first week of November
- "Thoroughly Modern
Millie," Playhouse Square is bringing in a series of
- stands of golden oldies.
- "Stomp" did its
clamorous thing last month at the Palace Theatre (and
still sounds great). "Chicago" and
all its jazz will bring a nightly brawl to the State later
this month (riding on a crest of
popularity generated by the Oscar-winning film).
- And right now, the granddaddy of
the British megamusicals, "Les
Miserables," has imported all its massive
machinery and righteous might into the Allen, where
it stays through Sunday.
- This makes visit No. 8 to
Cleveland by valiant Jean Valjean; his rigid
nemesis, Inspector Javert; and the students
on the barricades of 1832 Paris. But "Les
Miz" has not lost an iota of its
virility in its old age.
- You can quibble over the artistic
merit of the source material. French novelist Victor Hugo, like his 19th-century
contemporary across the Channel, Charles Dickens, tends to oversimplify his story of
the privileged vs. the poor. (For a more nuanced, challenging and prescient view,
read their Russian counterpart, Feodor Dostoevski.)
- You can complain about the
hectoring bombast of the repetitive score of the sung-through musical, with music
by Claude-Michel Schonberg and text by Alain Boublil.
- You can point out that between
Hugo's long-windedness (the novel runs over 1,200 pages) and the score's
unrelentingly reiterative drive, the show's three-hour
span sometimes seems like three weeks.
- But what you cannot do is
criticize producer Cameron Mackintosh for being
cheap. "Les Miz" may have
closed its act on Broadway in May after 16 years, but the
Third National Company shows no mold or
- The $4.2 million touring
production has the 6-ton barricades, the 34-foot
turntable, the 36 actors, the 18-member orchestra
and the 1,000-piece costume collection.
- And it has all the attention the
Royal Shakespeare Company's Trevor Nunn and John Caird lavished on it so that the
humanity doesn't get lost in the grandiosity of it all.
- And, most important, the talent is
absolutely top-drawer, with seasoned veterans in the leading roles and relative
newcomers we shall certainly hear more of in the future
in supporting parts.
- Among the former, solid Randal
Keith, the last Valjean to sing in New York, comes
on like a biker Jesus in the
Prologue, evolving elegantly over the decades into the
shriven sinner facing his maker. An
intense tenor, he sings like a big old angel.
- Ramrod-stiff James Clow
glowers and towers over the production as an unforgiving Javert,
his stern baritone showing hints of vulnerability in the evening's
two drop-dead musical moments, "Stars" and
- And among the fresher faces, the
chemistry between Josh Young's tousle-haired Marius and Ma-Anne Dionisio's Eponine
(her curtain-raising "On My Own" lifts the
entire second act) makes you wonder if, in the
story, he wouldn't better off with her instead of Cosette.
- About the only thing about
Tuesday's opening not up to Mackintosh's high
standards (would that all tour producers had
them) were the light operators, who were about a half
a beat behind their cues, ruining
some of designer David Hersey's chiaroscuro effects.
Despite its flaws and its
familiarity, "Les Miz" adds up to something like
glory in its final, elegiac but uplifting moments.
- Dinosaur it may be, but miserable
it most definitely is not.
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