Cleveland, OH
Valiant cast triumphs for 1 tour more of 'Les Miz'
Tony Brown
Plain Dealer Theater Critic
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 with 
"Thoroughly Modern Millie," Playhouse Square is bringing in a series of one-week 
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 tarnish.
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 "Soliloquy."
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.
To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-4181


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